Diarrhea is loose, watery, or more frequent stools (poop). Although it can be upsetting, diarrhea is rarely dangerous and usually goes away in a few days.
Diarrhea can be a symptom of many conditions, including common infections due to viruses (like viral gastroenteritis, or "stomach flu"), bacteria, or parasites. It's often accompanied by cramping belly pain — and, sometimes, nausea, vomiting, fever, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Most cases of diarrhea go away in a few days with care at home, rest, and plenty of fluids. In some cases, particularly in infants, diarrhea can lead to dehydration that requires treatment with IV fluids and sometimes hospitalization. Diarrhea, especially if it lasts more than 2 weeks or keeps happening, also can be a symptom of an underlying medical problem that needs further evaluation.
The most common infectious causes of diarrhea are highly contagious and easily transmitted through dirty hands, contaminated food or water, and contact with dirty diapers or the toilet.
Washing hands well and often is the best way to help prevent spreading infection. Everyone in your family should wash their hands after using the bathroom and before eating.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|American Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.|
|CDC: Travelers' Health Look up vaccination requirements for travel destinations, get updates on international outbreaks, and more, searachable by country.|
|U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) The USDA works to enhance the quality of life for people by supporting the production of agriculture.|
|"Stomach Flu" Having the "stomach flu" usually means spending a lot of time in the bathroom. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|First Aid: Diarrhea Diarrhea is common and usually not a sign of something serious. Find out what to do if your child has diarrhea.|
|Food Poisoning The germs that get into food and cause food poisoning are tiny, but can have a powerful effect on the body. Find out what to do if you get food poisoning - and how to prevent it.|
|E. Coli Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection marked by severe diarrhea. Here's how to protect your family.|
|Food Poisoning Did you ever eat something that made you feel ooky? It might have been food poisoning.|
|Gastrointestinal Infections and Diarrhea Nearly everybody gets diarrhea every once in a while, and it's usually caused by gastrointestinal infections. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. Read this article to learn more.|
|Food Poisoning Sometimes, germs can get into food and cause food poisoning. Find out what to do if your child gets food poisoning - and how to prevent it.|
|Amebiasis Amebiasis is an intestinal illness transmitted when someone eats or drinks something that's contaminated with a microscopic parasite.|
|Shigella Infections Shigella are bacteria that can infect the digestive tract and cause a wide range of symptoms, from diarrhea, cramping, vomiting, and nausea, to more serious complications and illnesses.|
|Shigellosis Shigellosis is an intestinal infection caused by bacteria that can give a person bloody diarrhea and cause intestinal pain. Good hand washing is the best way to prevent shigellosis.|
|Salmonellosis People often think of salmonellosis as food poisoning, but food is only one way the bacteria Salmonella can be spread.|
|Salmonellosis Salmonellosis is an illness caused by a bacteria found in raw food, soil, water and the bowel movements of some animals, including reptiles. Find out how to prevent this illness.|
|Word! Diarrhea If you've ever had a bad time in the bathroom, then you know what this is.|
|Giardiasis Giardiasis, one of the chief causes of diarrhea in the United States, is an intestinal illness caused by a microscopic parasite.|
|Lactose Intolerance If you have lactose intolerance, you're not alone. Millions of Americans have the condition. Check out these tips on dealing with lactose intolerance.|
|Lactose Intolerance Kids with lactose intolerance have trouble digesting a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy foods. But by making smart choices, they can eat delicious foods without feeling sick.|
|E. Coli Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection and severe diarrhea. Here's how to protect yourself.|
|Campylobacter Infections These bacterial infections can cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever. Good hand-washing and food safety habits can prevent them.|
|Rotavirus Rotavirus infection affects most kids and is one of the most common causes of diarrhea. A vaccine to prevent it is now recommended for all kids.|
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