Diarrhoea can vary in severity from mild (slightly watery faeces and a brief upset stomach) to severe (extremely watery faeces associated with cramps in abdomen which may last for days). People with severe diarrhoea may have to go to the toilet frequently and may often need it urgently it. Sometimes severe diarrhoea causes loss of bowel control (more common in children).
Common symptoms of acute diarrhoea include:
Symptoms of dehydration
Repeated diarrhoea and vomiting can cause dehydration. Loss of electrolytes and water from the body due to dehydration can affect, besides the level of water in the body; electrolyte balance (such as sodium and potassium), muscle activity, and other important functions. Dehydration can be a serious complication of diarrhoea in children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems if it is not treated timely and appropriately. Dehydration can cause serious health problems, such as organ damage, shock, or coma.
Signs and symptoms of dehydration in adults are:
Signs and symptoms of dehydration in infants and young children include:
In a dehydrated person the skin elasticity decreases (i.e. their skin does not flatten back to normal right away after being gently pinched and released). If you or your child is dehydrated, consult a health care provider immediately. People with severe dehydration may have to be hospitalised for fluid replacement. Drinking plenty of water and oral rehydration solution can help to prevent dehydration.