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)
Bile acid malabsorption
Surgery, such as gastrectomy
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
|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 vomiting||Diarrhea that lasts more than 24 hours|
|Diarrhea that lasts more than two days||A fever of 102 degrees (38.9 degrees) or higher|
|Severe abdominal or rectal pain||Stools with blood or pus|
|A fever of 102 degrees (38.9 degrees) or higher||Black and tarry stools|
|Stools with blood or pus||Severe 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