Diarrhoea: When should one seek medical advice?

By  , Expert Content
Apr 05, 2012

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Diarrhoea in most cases is a self limiting illness which improves in a few days. However repeated diarrhoea can cause dehydration. Loss of electrolytes and water from the body due to dehydration can affect the level of water in the body, electrolyte balance (such as sodium and potassium), muscle activity, and can cause complications such as organ damage, shock, or coma.

Consult a doctor for diarrhoea in a child if:

  • He or she has had six or more episodes of diarrhoea in a day.
  • Your child has both diarrhoea and vomiting (which makes retaining fluids difficult).
  • Diarrhoea is particularly watery.
  • There is blood in the motion.
  • Stool is black in colour.
  • Diarrhoea lasts for more than two weeks.
  • The child has severe abdominal pain.
  • Your child has temperature over 390c (1020 f).
  • Your child shows signs of dehydration.

Consult a doctor for diarrhoea in an adult if:

  • The person has recently been treated in a hospital.
  • Has been recently administered antibiotics.
  • There is blood in stool.
  • There is frequent diarrhoea and persistent vomiting (which makes retaining fluids difficult).
  • There is unexplained weight loss.
  • There is bleeding from your rectum (back passage).
  • The person is passing large volumes of very watery diarrhoea (as this increases the risk of dehydration).
  • The symptoms are severe and disturb your sleep.
  • Diarrhoea lasts longer than a week.
  • Abdominal pain is severe.
  • There is severe rectal pain.
  • The person has signs of dehydration.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration in adults and children

Signs and symptoms of dehydration in adults are:

  • Feeling excessively thirsty.
  • Reduce frequency of urination than usual.
  • Dark-coloured urine.
  • Dry skin and mouth.
  • Feeling tired (fatigue).
  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration in infants and young children include:

  • Dry mouth and tongue.
  • Lack of tears on crying.
  • Decreased frequency of urination.
  • No wet diapers for 3 hours or more.
  • Sunken eyes, cheeks, or soft spot in the skull.
  • Listlessness or irritability.



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