1. Health
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Diarrhea Remedies

Home Care for Diarrhea and When to Seek Medical Help

By

Updated May 28, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Young woman drinking a glass of water in a bedroom
Geri Lavrov/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Most diarrhea is caused by viruses or bacteria, and will go away on its own in two to three days. You can treat diarrhea with home remedies most of the time, but you should know when to seek medical help. Four simple diarrhea remedies are:

1. Drink plenty of fluids.

  • For mild diarrhea, it is fine to drink milk, water, juice, or sports drinks. Avoid coffee, soft drinks, or juice drinks that are not 100% juice.

  • For severe diarrhea, you should use oral rehydration salts, which are available over the counter at drugstores.

  • Young children and babies should be given pediatric rehydration drinks, which are sold under brand names such as Pedialyte, Enfalyte or Gastrolyte.

  • Breastfed infants should continue to breastfeed.

  • If you are allergic to additives such as food colorings or flavorings that are in some commercial rehydration drinks, you can make a homemade oral rehydration drink using only salt, sugar, and water.

2. Eat food that is easy to digest.

  • Avoid greasy, fried, very sugary, or very spicy foods.
  • Complex carbohydrates, fresh fruits, lean meats, yogurt, and vegetables are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • As soon as your diarrhea ends, you can begin eating a normal diet again.

3. Use probiotics.

Eat yogurt with live cultures, or take over-the-counter probiotic supplements. Probiotics are good bacteria that help you digest food and keep your gut healthy. They may make diarrhea less severe or shorten the length of time you have diarrhea.

4. Avoid anti-diarrheal medication.

Don’t take anti-diarrheal medication (Loperamide) unless your doctor tells you to. The purpose of diarrhea is to rid your body of whatever is making it sick. Anti-diarrheal medicine is like putting a cork in a bottle –- instead of curing the problem, it may just stop it up.

Seeking Medical Help

Most diarrhea can be cared for at home, but sometimes it is a symptom of an underlying medical problem and not just a virus that will come and go. Some causes of diarrhea that last for weeks or months can be food allergies or intolerances, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease. There are also emergency conditions that can cause diarrhea.

When to Seek Medical Help for Adults

These symptoms require immediate medical care if you have them with diarrhea:

  • Signs of dehydration: dry mouth and tongue, dark or infrequent urination, dizziness, or lethargy
  • Bloody, black, or oily-looking stools
  • Fever above 101 degrees
  • Severe abdominal pain that does not improve after a bowel movement
  • Diarrhea with hives or other symptoms of severe food allergy

Call your doctor during normal business hours if you have any of these symptoms:

  • More than 6 loose stools a day
  • Diarrhea that lasts longer than 3 days
  • Vomiting and diarrhea that lasts longer than 12 hours
  • Diarrhea after starting a new medication
  • You have recently traveled to a tropical country
  • People you shared a meal with have similar symptoms

When to Seek Medical Help for Young Children and Babies

Babies and children under the age of three can very quickly become dangerously dehydrated.

These symptoms in babies or young children need immediate medical care:

  • The first signs of diarrhea for a baby under three months of age
  • Signs of dehydration: lack of tears when crying, sunken eyes, or no wet diapers for more than 3 hours
  • Bloody, black, or oily-looking stools
  • Fever above 100.4 degrees
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea with hives or other symptoms of severe food allergy

Call your pediatrician during normal business hours if your child has any of these symptoms:

  • Diarrhea that lasts longer than 2 days
  • Vomiting and diarrhea that lasts longer than 12 hours
  • Diarrhea after starting a new medication
  • You have recently traveled with your child to a tropical country
  • People you shared a meal with have similar symptoms

Sources:

American Gastroenterological Association. Understanding Food Allergies and Intolerances. Accessed 11/5/2010. http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/diet-medications/food-allergies-fructose-intolerance-and-lactose-intolerance

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Guidelines for the Management of Acute Diarrhea. Accessed 11/5/2010. http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/pdf/dguidelines.pdf

Medline Plus. Diarrhea. Accessed 11/5/2010. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003126.htm

Surawicz, Christina M., MD and Ochoa, Blanca, M.D. Diarrheal Diseases. American College of Gastroenterology. Accessed 11/5/2010. http://www.acg.gi.org/patients/gihealth/diarrheal.asp

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Food Allergies
  4. Treatment
  5. Diarrhea Remedies - Home Care Tips

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.