PUBLIC HEALTH FACT SHEET
What is Diarrhea?
Diarrhea is an increased number of loose, watery stools, usually more than three in 24 hours. Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and/or fever may or may not be present as well. Diarrhea is usually caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites. It can also occur when antibiotics kill the “good” bacteria in the intestines.
What should I do if I have symptoms of diarrhea?
Be careful not to spread the disease to others. Most importantly, wash your hands with soap and warm water after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before eating or handling food.
Some foods such as eggs, meat, poultry, seafood, and raw fruits and vegetables may be contaminated with the bacteria, viruses or parasites that cause diarrhea. A disease can also be spread when people handle food without washing their hands first. Water, especially from lakes, rivers and streams, can also be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites that produce diarrhea.
Are there complications?
Dehydration is the most common complication. Sipping clear liquids such as water, broth, tea, or apple juice can help prevent this.
How is it treated?
Many episodes of diarrhea improve with drinking clear fluids and use of over the counter anti-diarrheal medicine. However, symptoms of fever, bloody stools, cramping, and pain may require medical attention and antibiotics.
How can we prevent diarrhea?
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water after using the bathroom or changing diapers, and before eating or handling food.
- Cook food thoroughly.
- Wash fruits and vegetables very well.
- Drink water from lakes, rivers and streams only after it has been purified.