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Diarrhea Duration: When Should You Start to Worry?

Story at-a-glance

  • According to Medical News Today, acute diarrhea is defined by world guidelines as “the presence of three or more abnormally loose or watery stools in the preceding 24 hours"
  • Aside from children, seniors and anyone with compromised immune systems should also avoid dehydration, and make sure to treat their diarrhea immediately

Whether you experience diarrhea after eating in the morning or at night, this is a common illness that will usually go away on its own after a few days.1 However, it can become a serious problem and cause complications if you don’t address it immediately.

How Long Does Diarrhea Last?

There are three general classifications of diarrhea defined by how long the condition persists:2,3

Acute diarrhea: This is when the illness only lasts from several hours to two weeks. According to Medical News Today, acute diarrhea is defined by world guidelines as “the presence of three or more abnormally loose or watery stools in the preceding 24 hours.” It is usually caused by infection — bacterial, viral or parasitic.4 Medications, especially antibiotics, are another common cause of acute diarrhea, because they upset the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut.5,6

Persistent diarrhea: This is when you suffer from diarrhea for two to four weeks. Persistent diarrhea can be triggered by certain viruses, parasites or bacteria strains.7

Chronic diarrhea: This is constant diarrhea that lasts for more than four weeks. The most common causes of chronic diarrhea include:8

Infections (parasitic, bacterial or viral)

Inflammatory bowel disease9

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Diverticulitis10

Celiac disease11

Bile acid malabsorption

Chronic pancreatitis

Surgery, such as gastrectomy

Cystic fibrosis

Food intolerance

Diarrhea can develop into a serious problem when it is not treated promptly. In most cases, you just need to prevent dehydration by consuming plenty of pure water and other fluids, such as mineral-rich bone broth.12 Adding probiotic foods to your diet or taking high-quality probiotic supplement can also help treat diarrhea.13,14 However, there are times when you need immediate medical attention.

When to See a Doctor

If you or your child has diarrhea and any of these signs are present, consult your physician:15

Adults Children
Signs of dehydration (thirst, dark-colored urine, dry skin, fatigue and dizziness)Signs of dehydration (dry mouth and tongue, no tears when crying, and sunken eyes and cheeks)
Constant vomitingDiarrhea that lasts more than 24 hours
Diarrhea that lasts more than two daysA fever of 102 degrees (38.9 degrees) or higher
Severe abdominal or rectal painStools with blood or pus
A fever of 102 degrees (38.9 degrees) or higherBlack and tarry stools
Stools with blood or pusSevere abdominal or rectal pain
Black and tarry stools

Diarrhea is especially dangerous for children, as it can severely affect childhood growth and development.16,17 This illness can also lead to dehydration, which can be fatal.18 Aside from children, seniors and those with compromised immune systems should also avoid dehydration, and make sure to treat their diarrhea immediately.19

MORE ABOUT DIARRHEA

Diarrhea: Introduction

What Is Diarrhea?

Diarrhea In Kids

Diarrhea During Pregnancy

Diarrhea Duration

Is Diarrhea Contagious?

Diarrhea Causes

Diarrhea Types

Diarrhea Symptoms

Diarrhea Treatment

Diarrhea Prevention

Diarrhea Diet

Diarrhea FAQ



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Is Diarrhea Contagious?

[+] Sources and References [-] Sources and References

  • 1 WebMD, September 26, 2017
  • 2 Medical News Today, November 28, 2017
  • 3 VeryWell Health, July 13, 2016
  • 4 Medicinenet, January 31, 2018
  • 5 Mayo Clinic, July 29, 2016
  • 6 The Atlantic, November 26, 2015
  • 7 “Wilderness Medicine E-Book: Expert Consult Premium Edition - Enhanced Online Features,” October 31, 2011
  • 8 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 18, 2011
  • 9 WebMD, October 2, 2017
  • 10 WebMD, October 24, 2017
  • 11, 15 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, November 2016
  • 12 WebMD, October 20, 2017
  • 13 Medical News Today, November 23, 2017
  • 14 PubMed Health, May 4, 2016
  • 16 Int J Epidemiol. 2008 Aug; 37(4): 816–830
  • 17 American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 157, Issue 2, 15 January 2003, Pages 166–175
  • 18 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, December 17, 2015
  • 19 WebMD, September 10, 2011
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