Diarrhoea is the passing of loose or liquid stools frequently. It is often accompanied by abdominal pains, cramps, wind, nausea and occasionally vomiting.
In diarrhoea the movement of bowel contents is much more rapid and the normal reabsorption of water doesn’t take place. The main complication of diarrhoea is suffering from dehydration, itself a major cause of mortality in developing countries.
Acute diarrhoea usually occurs suddenly and lasts a short time. Chronic diarrhoea continues for a long period of time. If symptoms persist you should consult your GP.
Common causes of acute diarrhoea include food poisoning, gastroenteritis, anxiety, excess alcohol and intolerance to some foods.
IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is a condition in which sufferers may experience alternating diarrhoea and constipation symptoms accompanied by stomach cramps over a period of time. If you are experiencing these symptoms for the first time, speak to your GP.
There are also several less common conditions which cause chronic diarrhoea such as ulcerative colitis, Coeliac disease and Crohn’s disease where there is inﬂammation of the bowel leading to problems with the absorption of food.
Some drugs, including antibiotics, can cause diarrhoea as a side effect. Always check with the pharmacist before discontinuing any medication.
Diarrhoea in babies has several causes. Breastfed babies are much more likely to pass very soft stools than those who are bottle fed and should not be mistaken for diarrhoea.
Diarrhoea can also be caused by intolerance to lactose (found in cow’s milk). Check with the pharmacist if your child develops diarrhoea as they can become dehydrated very quickly.
You should also consult your pharmacist if:
- Diarrhoea lasts more than four days (two days in children), with or without treatment.
- It is accompanied by severe stomach pains.
- There are signs of dehydration(thirst, dizziness, headache, tiredness).
- There is blood in the stools.
- There is unintentional weight loss.