Most people get diarrhea now and then and although it is usually harmless it can feel uncomfortable for adults and really worrying for parents when the little child is affected. If the accident occurs, there is a way for the whole family to get help immediately, even for the smallest children.
Diarrhea is relatively harmless, but there are situations when the care should be contacted, for example if the diarrhea has been going on for a long time or if children or the elderly have been affected.
Diarrhea – cause
As a rule, acute diarrhea is a symptom of a gastrointestinal infection, that is, you have got bacteria, viruses or parasites that inhibit the gut’s ability to absorb fluid. Thus, the fluid remains in the intestine and dissolves the stool – you have got diarrhea. We can see these bacteria, viruses or parasites everywhere. The risk is extra large when we are abroad and encounter “foreign” bacterial environments in both drinking water and food.
Other causes of diarrhea may be:
- High consumption of alcohol or coffee
- Food allergies
- Stress and anxiety
- Side effect of medication
Symptoms of diarrhea
It is usually said that you suffer from diarrhea if you have an increased number of stools per day (more than three stools) and if it is loose or watery. In adults, diarrhea usually subsides within two to four days, but in some cases it may take longer.
If diarrhea symptoms persist for more than 24-36 hours, physicians should be consulted. Likewise if the victim is older or children under 3 years. Especially if there are other symptoms, such as high fever. But in most cases, you can use prescription-free products from the pharmacy to treat yourself and get rid of the diarrhea.
Emergency treatment for diarrhea in adults
By acute treatment, you mean treatment, not infrequently self-care, that you seek out in connection with your diarrhea. Thus, it is not the same as urgently seeking care. For many years, emergency treatment of diarrhea has consisted of taking a drug with loperamide hydrochloride that reduces bowel movement and also reduces symptoms, usually within a few hours. It is always important that you follow the package leaflet’s instructions and since the bowel’s normal movement pattern is affected, this treatment should not take more than two days, otherwise you may be constipated instead.
There is a new form of treatment for temporary diarrhea, racecadotril, which instead of affecting the bowel movement regulates the fluid level in the intestine. This means that you are not at risk of constipation and you can treat on your own for up to three days. Ask your pharmacist if you are not sure which product to choose.
Medical treatment for diarrhea
An emergency treatment of diarrhea means that instead of restricting the normal movement patterns of the gut, the bacteria, viruses or parasites that cause the diarrhea are encapsulated. In this way, the source of diarrhea itself is harmless and the problems can cease immediately. This action is done with a combination of gelatin and cellulose which is taken in tablet form.
Since this does not affect the body medically, the treatment is registered as a medical device, and can also be used for children from 3 months of age.
Diarrhea in children – emergency treatment for children
In cases of diarrhea in children under the age of 3, especially if there are other symptoms such as fever, it is recommended to consult your doctor. There is also emergency treatment of pediatric diarrhea to buy at the pharmacy. Here you do not take loperamide hydrochloride for self-care as this substance affects the normal movement of the intestine. Instead, from the time the child is 3 months old, an acute treatment can be done with the combination of gelatin and cellulose that encapsulates the bacteria and the like that cause the diarrhea.
There are treatment alternatives with racecadotril even for children from three months of age but only on prescription. Talk to your health care provider for further advice on how to take care of your child’s acute diarrhea.
Dehydration in connection with diarrhea
Diarrhea and vomiting can lead to dehydration. For adults it is usually enough to drink water, but you can also drink, for example, fruit juice or soup. In pharmacies, liquid replacement is in powder form which dissolves in water and contains body-important substances such as salt, glucose and electrolytes.
The greatest risk for children with diarrhea is dehydration, so it is good to be aware of giving the child plenty of fluid. Even if the baby is vomiting, it is better to give small sips of water than no liquid at all. You should avoid giving your baby a very sweet drink, as it can aggravate diarrhea in children. A well-balanced fluid replacement is especially important for children, people who are weak, over 60 or have other health problems. Do not hesitate to ask your pharmacist or healthcare professional for advice.
How to avoid the “tourist belly”
“Tourist stomach”, a classic cause of acute diarrhea, is something we probably all want to avoid when we finally treat ourselves to a nice holiday. So – if you are traveling to countries where the hygiene standard is lower than you normally are, or where the drinking water may be contaminated, you should avoid the following foods:
• Tap water
• Freshly squeezed juice
• Ice cream and ice cubes
• Raw or insufficiently cooked food
• Peeled fruits
Prevent diarrhea and don’t go to work too soon
You reduce the risk of diarrhea as a result of food poisoning through sensible food hygiene such as washing hands, work surfaces and utensils with hot soapy water. Never store raw and cooked food together, and ensure that the refrigerator is at the right temperature and that the cooked food is cooled down quickly. If someone in your family has been affected, you should avoid sharing towels, bedding, cutlery and the like with the affected person.
If you are affected yourself, you can limit the spread of infection by washing your hands carefully after toilet visits and before eating or cooking. Also disinfect the toilet, including the flush button and the toilet seat with, for example, an alcohol ball after each visit. Avoid drinks that contain a lot of sugar (such as soft drinks), as this can aggravate diarrhea. Similarly, you should opt out of fatty, spicy or hard-to-digest foods, as these can aggravate the symptoms. Don’t go to work until 48 hours after the last round of diarrhea!