Treatment Options for Diarrhoea

By  , Expert Content
Apr 05, 2012

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Diarrhoea is a self limiting condition and resolves in a few days without treatment as the immune system (the body’s natural defence system) automatically fights the infection. Symptoms of diarrhoea usually subside in five to seven days in children and rarely last for more than two weeks. In adults, the symptoms of diarrhoea are usually short and improve within two to four days.

Your symptoms may be relieved by following the steps:

Drink fluids

Repeated diarrhoea can cause dehydration. You are more likely to be dehydrated if you have recurrent vomiting as well. 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 be prevented by drinking lots of fluids. You should take small, frequent sips of water or ready-mixed rehydration sachets added to drinking water. Even if you have been vomiting, continue to take frequent sips of water or oral rehydration solution. It is better to take small amount of fluid than none at all. Avoid fruit juice and fizzy drinks as these can worsen diarrhoea.

Continue breastfeeding or bottle-feeding

A child who on breastfeeding or bottle-feeding can continue with it  if they he has diarrhoea. Rehydration drinks should also be given along with these to prevent dehydration.

Advice for eating

According to experts a person with diarrhoea should eat solid food as soon as he can. It is advisable to eat small, light meals and avoid fatty, spicy or heavy foods. If an adult does not feel like eating it is fine. Not eating when you have acute diarrhoea should not do any harm, but it is important to drink fluids and eat as soon as you can.

Children and eating

A dehydrated child should be given fluids before starting solid foods. After the signs of dehydration improve give your child their normal diet. If a child is not dehydrated, he or she can take normal diet. But if the child refuses to eat, continue to offer drinks and wait until he or she starts to feel hungry.


Medications which may be given when you have diarrhoea include anti-diarrhoeal medicines, antibiotics, pain and fever relieving medicines, and medicine to stop vomiting.

  • Anti-diarrhoeal medicines such as loperamide may reduce the duration of diarrhoea by around 24 hours. However, most people do not need it unless shortening the duration of diarrhoea is necessary (such as an emergency which you cannot avoid at any cost).
  • Painkillers and fever relieving medicines such as paracetamol or ibuprofen do not help in treating diarrhoea, but they can reduce fever or headache.
  • Antibiotics are usually not needed as they are not effective in most cases of diarrhoea. Diarrhoea is most often caused by virus and even when it is caused due to bacterial infection, most people recover without them. Antibiotics may be needed if diarrhoea is particularly severe or specific bacterial cause is known.
  • Medication for vomiting does not improve the condition of diarrhoea but may help to retain fluids and prevent dehydration.

Most people (adults and children) with diarrhoea can be managed at home. Treatment in hospital may be necessary when you have serious dehydration or some other complication caused by diarrhoea. In the hospital you will be given fluids directly into the vein (intravenously) and medications (such as antibiotics) if necessary.



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