Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is inconvenient and can be painful. Here are some tips for prevention and cure.

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Diarrhoea is the passing of loose or watery stools, several times a day. Other diarrhoea symptoms include stomach cramps and sometimes fever, bloating and nausea. It can make you dehydrated, as important body fluids and salts are lost. Luckily, it is seldom serious in adults and usually clears up within a few days. 


The causes of diarrhoea vary from a viral or bacterial infection or food poisoning to food intolerance (for example lactose in milk) as well as an allergy to certain foods and medicines, while others may suffer diarrhoea as a result of stress.
 

How to Stop Diarrhoea

With a few changes to your diet diarrhoea can usually be stopped quickly but there are some home remedies for diarrhoea that can help, like making your own rehydration drink by mixing two teaspoons of sugar with half teaspoon of salt in one litre of water. Alternatively, you can buy sachets of rehydration salts from the pharmacy. 

Remember to drink plenty of fluids such as water, fruit juice and clear soup, taking a few sips at a time throughout the day. Avoid alcohol, coffee, tea and milk. Stay away from oily food such as meat, nuts, beans, dairy products and opt instead for bland food such as porridge and bread.

You can also take medicine for diarrhoea such as a charcoal preparation, diphenoxylate or loperamide if the frequency of your diarrhoea causes inconvenience. Consult your pharmacist first but do not give anti-diarrhoea medicines to children unless instructed by the doctor.

When to See Your Doctor

See your family doctor when the diarrhoea does not subside within the first four hours (two hours in children) and if there is associated pain and more than one episode of vomiting or there is blood in the stools. If your baby has diarrhoea, continue breastfeeding. When bottle-feeding, give baby half-strength feeds by mixing half the usual milk powder with the usual amount of water. Also give plenty of fluids.
 

When to Go to the Emergency Department

Go straight to hospital with babies or young children if diarrhoea worsens or persists for more than two days. Dehydration can happen quickly during a bout of diarrhoea. Your baby will show signs such as dry skin, dry lips and mouth and sunken eyes. In severe cases they will pass little urine and have a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on the baby’s head).

You should also seek emergency medical treatment in the event of: passing black or bloody stools; stools that look like rice water; if there is severe and continuous abdominal pain; or if the diarrhoea is accompanied by persistent vomiting.

Preventing Diarrhoea

You can prevent diarrhoea by:
Practising good hygiene; washing your hands with soap and water before meals and after using the toilet 
Avoiding unhygienic or improperly cooked food and drinks 
Covering or storing food to keep it away from flies and cockroaches 
Storing leftovers in the fridge and separating raw and cooked food 



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