Most of the time, diarrhea doesn't require treatment. It most often lasts only a couple of days whether you treat it or not. It is important to take plenty of fluid and salt to avoid dehydration. However, medicine and simple dietary changes can help you feel better, especially if you also have cramping.
Although water is extremely important in preventing dehydration, it does not contain electrolytes (the salts and minerals that affect the amount of water in your body, muscle and nerve activity, and other important functions). The fluid and electrolytes lost during diarrhea need to be replaced promptly because the body cannot function without them. Broth and soups that contain sodium, and fruit juices, soft fruits, or vegetables that contain potassium, help restore electrolyte levels. Over-the-counter rehydration solutions such as Pedialyte, Ceralyte, and Infalyte are also good electrolyte sources and are especially recommended for use in children.
Most episodes of acute diarrhea resolve quickly and without antibiotic therapy with simple dietary modifications. Initial dietary choices should begin with soups, broth, boiled rice, carrots or apples. Until diarrhea subsides, try to avoid alcohol, caffeine, milk products, and foods that are greasy, high in fiber, or very sweet. These foods tend to aggravate diarrhea. As you improve, you can add soft, bland foods to your diet. Once diarrhea has stopped, you will likely be able to return to a normal and healthy diet as tolerated.
Anti-diarrheal drug therapy can be helpful to control severe symptoms. These, however, should be avoided in people with high fever or bloody diarrhea and in children, because the use of antidiarrheals can lead to complications. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics if you have high fever, dysentery, or moderate to severe traveler's diarrhea.
Depending on the cause of your diarrhea, your doctor many prescribe a range of antibiotics that kill bacteria. If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic for you, it's important to talk to your doctor before taking any OTC medicine to relieve your symptoms.
Over-the-counter medications (OTC) drugs?
Some non-prescription drugs can help you feel better if you have diarrhea. These are called antidiarrheal drugs. These include loperamide (such as Imodium AD) and bismuth subsalicylate (such as Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol). Bismuth subsalicylate can also be used for upset stomach and as an antiemetic (a medicine that treats nausea and vomiting).
- Loperamide – this medicine works by slowing down the speed of fluids moving through your bowels.
- Bismuth subsalicylate - balances the way fluid moves through your bowels. This medicine also binds toxins (poisons) from bacteria so that they are not harmful and helps kill germs.
You can take precautions against diarrhea by being careful not to consume food or water, potentially contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. You can safely drink bottled water-if you are the one to break the seal-along with carbonated soft drinks, and hot drinks such as coffee or tea. However, do not drink tap water, ice made from tap water or use tap water to brush your teeth. Other topics include:
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