Treating the underlying condition may help to relieve the diarrhea.
General recommendations for treating diarrhea include:
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Plain water will not replace the electrolytes lost through diarrhea. For adults and children, look for age-specific oral rehydration solutions. Avoid fruit juices, soda, and drinks containing caffeine. For young children, continue with breastfeeding or formula feeding as advised by your child's doctor.
Ask Your Doctor What You Should Eat
Doctors differ in their approach to treating diarrhea. For example, your doctor may recommend that you:
Drink only clear fluids during severe phases of diarrhea.
Avoid certain foods, such as: spicy foods, fatty foods, greasy foods, high-fiber foods, dairy products in large amounts, and caffeinated drinks.
Eat certain foods, such as: complex carbohydrates like pasta and rice, yogurt, fruits and vegetables, and lean meats
Ask your doctor which dietary guidelines you should follow. As your diarrhea subsides, your usual healthy foods can be reintroduced.
Your doctor may advise:
Antibiotics—may be needed if a bacterial infection is causing diarrhea
Probiotics may be beneficial in some cases
Children should not be given medication unless specifically advised by the doctor.
Diarrhea can cause severe dehydration. You may need to be hospitalized. Fluids will be delivered through an IV.
To reduce your chance of getting diarrhea:
Practice good handwashing.
Practice safe food preparation and food storage.
If you have diarrhea, do not prepare food for others.
If you are traveling:
Drink bottled water.
Use bottled water when brushing your teeth.
Avoid drinks that contain ice.
Do not eat food purchased from street vendors.
Do not eat raw vegetables or fruits. All produce should be peeled and/or cooked.
Make sure meats and seafood are cooked thoroughly.
Eat only pasteurized dairy products.
If you eat seafood, make sure it is very hot.
Rotavirus is a common cause of diarrhea in children under 5 years of age. There is a
to prevent rotavirus. The first dose is given at age 2 months. Make sure your infant has received this vaccine.
Diarrhea. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/health-tools/search-by-symptom/diarrhea.html. Accessed November 28, 2017.
Diarrhea. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/diarrhea/Pages/facts.aspx. Accessed November 28, 2017.
King CK, Glass R, Bresee JS, Duggan C. Managing acute gastroenteritis among children: oral rehydration, maintenance, and nutritional therapy. MMWR. 2003;52(RR16):1-16
Rotavirus vaccine safety. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaccines/rotavirus-vaccine.html. Updated February 1, 2017. Accessed November 28, 2017.
Understanding celiac disease. American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/info_for_patients/2013/06/06/understanding-celiac-disease. Updated November 28, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
James Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2014
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