Diarrhea Causes, Symptoms, And Prevention:
What is Diarrhea?
Diarrhea is the passage of loose or watery stools occurring three or more times in a 24-hour period.
The three types of diarrhea are acute diarrhea, persistent diarrhea, and dysentery.
If an episode of diarrhea lasts less than 14 days, it is acute diarrhea. Acute watery diarrhea causes dehydration and contributes to malnutrition. The death of a child with acute diarrhea is usually due to dehydration.
If diarrhea lasts 14 days or more, it is persistent diarrhea. Up to 20% of episodes of diarrhea become persistent. Persistent diarrhea often causes nutritional problems, creating the risk of malnutrition and serious non-intestinal infection. Dehydration also occurs.
Diarrhea with blood in the stool – with or without mucus – is called dysentery. Dysentery is very dangerous because of its ability to lead to anorexia, rapid weight loss, and damage to the intestinal mucosa. Another danger is sepsis.
Diarrhea is the second leading killer of children under the age of five, accounting for approximately 15% of under-five child deaths worldwide, or almost two million deaths annually.
Acute diarrhea is usually caused by:
- A bacterial ( e.g. salmonella)
- Viral ( e.g. norovirus)
- Parasitic ( e.g. giardia) infection of the bowels.
Diarrhea caused by any of these infections is referred to as gastroenteritis.
The most common causes of chronic diarrhea are underlying diseases or conditions, including:
- Gluten intolerance ( e.g. coeliac disease)
- Lactose intolerance (dairy intolerance)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic bowel infection
- Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Bowel cancer.
Signs and symptoms
The main symptom of diarrhea is loose, watery bowel motions (stools, feces) three or more times a day.
Follow signs and symptoms may include:
- Urgent need to go to the toilet
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Change in color of your stools
- Mucous, pus, blood, or fat in your stools
- General body weakness and tiredness.
Hand washing is one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of viruses and bacteria that can cause diarrhea. You should always wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet, changing nappies, and before meals.
The following rules when preparing food can also help prevent diarrhea:
- Always put foods that could spoil in the fridge
Cook meat well
- Avoid eating raw meats, fish, and shellfish unless you are sure that they have been freshly prepared and are from a reliable source
- Never place cooked meat on surfaces or plates that have held raw meat
- Disinfect benchtops, stovetops, and chopping boards with a diluted bleach solution.
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