Diarrhea occurs when you have looser or more frequent bowel movements than usual. This is one of the main symptoms of gastroenteritis, the other being vomiting. Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach or intestines that results from a bacterial or viral infection. Diarrhea usually lasts 2-4 days without the need for treatment, however severe diarrhea can be life-threatening. This watery diarrhea is caused by fluid loss, especially in infants and young children, the malnourished and those with weakened immune systems. Sadly, diarrheal disease is the second leading cause of death globally among children under the age of 5, accounting for approximately 760,000 child deaths each year.
The good news is that diarrhea is preventable. Through drinking safe water, improved hygiene (including the provision of proper facilities for the safe disposal of human waste) and practicing hand-washing hygiene with soap and water, the risk of diarrheal disease can be significantly reduced.
Causes of Diarrhea
What Causes Diarrhea?
Generally diarrheal infection is spread by ingesting contaminated food and water (hence post-meal diarrhea), dirty hands, or direct contact with faecal matter. A variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites can cause gastroenteritis and then diarrhea. Some common diseases include:
- Bacterial. Such as Salmonella or the bacterial species of the gut (E. coli)
- Virus. Such as norovirus or rotavirus.
- Parasites. Like Giardia Intestinalis.
Symptoms of Diarrhea
What are the symptoms of diarrhea?
You may experience one or more of the following:
- Watery diarrhea
- Upset stomach or cramps
- Urgent need to use the toilet
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
Diarrhea shifts usually end in a few days However, it is important to avoid becoming dehydrated during this time.
Drink plenty of fluids. You may want to consider taking an oral rehydration solution (ORS). These usually come in sachets and dissolve in water to make up for the deficiency of minerals and salts.
Try to eat normally, but keep meals small and light. Avoid savory, spicy, salty or sweet foods. For babies with diarrhea, you should continue to feed/breastfeed them as normal.
For adults, talk to your health care professional if you have more severe symptoms or if diarrhea continues for more than a week
Treatment of diarrhea
Safe drinking water:
Contaminated water is one of the most important contributing factors for infectious diseases in developing countries. Make sure you use safe water and if you have to store water in your home make sure the water pot is covered, don't let anyone drink the water or touch the pot directly and after each use Wash the dishes. If you are unsure of the quality of the water, clean it before drinking.
Using a toilet for the safe disposal of human waste (urine and feces) is an essential part of preventing the spread of the germs that cause diarrhea. Always use a toilet that is connected to a sewerage system or an on-site sanitation system (for example a septic tank or a leaking pit). Flush the toilet after use to ensure that the stool passes, and use a toilet cleaner and brush to remove any fecal deposits on the interior surfaces of the toilet. It is also important to keep the area around the toilet and regularly clean touching areas (such as the seat, lid, flush handle to be cleaned and disinfected regularly). Keep the toilet covered to prevent the transfer of germs by flies.
The cloth used to clean the toilet and toilet areas should not be used for cleaning other areas of the house.
Good food hygiene will help prevent gastroenteritis and diarrhea from food poisoning.
- Clean and disinfect food preparation surfaces: After preparing food (especially raw meat, fish or eggs), clean and disinfect all surfaces that you have used. Dirty utensils, cutlery and crockery can be cleaned with soap and hot water
- Store raw and prepared food separately
- Cook food thoroughly and evenly
- Keep food in the fridge to prevent bacterial growth
Take extra care when a member of your family is suffering from diarrhea. Heading 3
- Do not share cutlery, utensils, towels and other personal care items such as flannels and sponges with other members of the household.
- People with diarrhea should not prepare food for others.
- Clean and disinfect your toilet, including toilet seat and toilet flush after every shift of diarrhea.
- Remember to wash your hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and water.
- Wait at least 48 hours after symptoms have passed before going to work or school.
Myth & Truth
"Should You Drink Less Fluids When You Have Diarrhea?"
That's Wrong - It's important to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration when you have diarrhea. Even if you vomit, drink small sips of water after a while, remember to boil/clean the water before drinking.
"Should you be mindful of what you eat when suffering from diarrhea?"
There are many beliefs on what and when you should eat during diarrhea. Most experts agree that you should eat solid food. Meals should be light, less and avoid spicy, heavy or fatty foods. If you feel like you can't eat, it won't do you any harm.