The goal of treatment is to replace fluids and electrolytes lost by diarrhea. Electrolyte solutions are available without a prescription. Antidiarrheal medications are generally not given because they may prolong the infection. If you have severe symptoms, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
People with diarrhea who are can’t drink anything due to nausea may need medical attention and intravenous fluids. This is especially true for small children. Fever and aches can be treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
If you take diuretics, you may need to stop taking them during the acute episode, when diarrhea is present. Ask your health care provider for instructions.
Changing your diet while you have diarrhea may help reduce symptoms. This may include avoiding milk products and following a BRAT diet. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These are binding foods that make the stools firmer.
Infants should continue to breastfeed and receive electrolyte replacement solutions as directed by your health care provider.
The outcome is usually good. In otherwise healthy people, symptoms should go away in 2 – 5 days.
The acute illness lasts for 1 – 2 weeks. The bacteria is shed in the feces for months in some treated patients. Some people who shed the bacteria have a carrier state for 1 year or more after the infection.
Dehydration from diarrhea, especially in young children and infants, is a dangerous complication. Life-threatening meningitis and septicemia may also occur. Food handlers who become carriers can pass the infection along to the people who eat their food.
Calling Your Health Care Provider
Call your health care provider if there is blood in the stools, or if there is no improvement after 2-3 days. Also call if any of the following occurs:
- Severe vomiting or abdominal pain
- Signs of dehydration: decreased urine output, sunken eyes, sticky or dry mouth, no tears when crying
Review Date : 11/2/2008
Reviewed By : Linda Vorvick, MD, Family Physician, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed byDavid Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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