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People with diarrhoea find themselves having more frequent, loose, watery stools.


There are many different causes of diarrhoea, but gastroenteritis, a bowel infection, is the common cause in both adults and children.

Many bacteria, viruses, and other parasites can cause diarrhoea. Sometimes these germs come from infected food i.e.food poisoning or infected water.

Viruses are also easily spread from one person to another by close contact, or when an infected person prepares food for others.


The symptoms associated with diarrhoea can vary depending on the cause. In most cases, diarrhoea eases and goes within several days, but sometimes takes longer.

The main symptom is frequent, loose, watery stools or faeces, for usually at least three times in 24 hours. If there is an infection, blood or mucus can appear in the stools.

Other symptoms include:

  • Dehydration
  • Pains in the abdomen or tummy. These pains may ease for a while each time a person passes some stool.
  • High temperature or fever
  • Headache

In adults the symptoms usually improves after two to four days, as the immune system usually clears the infection . However, in children, it often lasts longer, between five and seven days. Occasionally, admission to hospital is needed if symptoms are severe, or if complications develop.


Most cases of diarrhoea actually clear up after a few days without treatment.

The recommended treatment for diarrhoea is to take an oral rehydration solution (ORS), especially to counter the effects of dehydration.

Some doctors prescribe medication e.g. antibiotics where the diarrhoea is caused by an infection.


To prevent diarrhoea caused by infection, you can take the following steps to prevent the infection spreading:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food
  • Clean the toilet, including the handle and the seat, with disinfectant after each case of diarrhoea
  • Avoid sharing towels, cutlery or utensils with other household member

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