Is Diarrhea an Emergency?

Feb 11, 2019 | IBD, IBS

There’s nothing fun about abdominal pain and diarrhea, yet it is something everyone will experience. But how do you when it’s an emergency and time for action? In some cases, ignoring and enduring diarrhea and acute abdominal pain is dangerous. We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about diarrhea so you know the difference between an emergency and an inconvenience.

Common Causes

A viral or bacterial infection is one of the most common causes of diarrhea. A viral infection is typically called a stomach bug. You get sick because you’ve been around someone else with the virus. You can get a bacterial infection by consuming contaminated food and drink. You can also experience diarrhea and abdominal pain as a reaction to certain foods. Eating a lot of rich, fatty foods or changing your diet suddenly can also lead to diarrhea. If you have celiac disease and consume gluten, you my experience abdominal pain and diarrhea.

These symptoms are also a reaction to certain medications. Medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antacids with magnesium, laxatives, and chemotherapy all have side effects of diarrhea. Your brain and your gut are connected, so you may experience diarrhea or digestive problems when you are under a lot of stress and anxiety.

Addressing The Common Causes

If you have a reaction to food or a bacterial infection, discomfort will only occur for a couple of hours. If you have a virus, you may experience diarrhea for two to three days. When diarrhea is a side effect to new medication, it will subside once your body adjusts to the drugs. During these situations, be sure to get rest, drink plenty of fluid, and replenish your electrolytes. If diarrhea is stress-related, practice deep breathing techniques and meditation or mindfulness to lower your stress level. After a few days, you should be feeling better and your bowel movements should become regular.

When to Call Your Doctor

There are several warning signs associated with diarrhea. If you experience severe abdominal pain, increasingly worse symptoms, or diarrhea that persists for more than three days, it’s time to call your doctor. These symptoms could be an indicator of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). If someone with a weakened immune system, like a child or older person, is experiencing abdominal pain and diarrhea, then it’s important to call your doctor. Diarrhea that is black, tarry, or bloody warrants an immediate conversation with a physician. When diarrhea is accompanied by fever, frequent vomiting, difficulty speaking, rapid heart rate, jaundice, irritability, seizures, or vision problems, call your doctor. When you have diarrhea, watch for dark urine, dry mouth, fatigue, and thirst—these are all signs of dehydration.

How to Prevent Diarrhea

While it is impractical to believe you can prevent diarrhea and abdominal pain from ever affecting you, you can take steps to limit your chances of developing symptoms. We encourage you to eat a healthful diet and stay hydrated. Avoid food intolerances and limit foods that are high in fat. Reduce your alcohol consumption and manage your stress levels. Prepare and store food correctly, and manage your portion sizes. Avoid contact with anyone who has the stomach flu and be cautious of regions or restaurants where food poisoning is prevalent. If you have IBS or IBD, talk to your doctor about treatment plans that help you reduce the severity and frequency of your symptoms.

If you experience persistent diarrhea or severe abdominal pain, schedule an appointment at Gastroenterology Consultants of Savannah today. Your symptoms may be indicating a deeper gastroenterology issue—an issue we want to remedy.