Diarrhoea is generally caused by a virus, or occasionally by bacteria.  Only a very limited number of causes require treatment.  The majority get better in a few days with no specific treatment.  Paracetamol may help if the diarrhoea is accompanied by colicky abdominal pain.

Diarrhoea is general spread by contaminated food or by contact with an infected person, though it can also be caused by eating or drinking too much. 

It can usually be prevented by good food hygiene, proper cooking and hand washing after using the toilet and before handling or preparing food.

The main treatment of diarrhoea is to increase fluid intake in order to prevent dehydration occurring.

In babies

  • continue breastfeeding

  • give extra fluids such as oral rehydration fluids (consult your pharmacist) via a bottle or teaspoon little and often

  • it may be advisable to stop solids and cows milk for 24 hours

In children and adults

  • give additional water or diluted fruit juice

  • allow the patient to eat if the patient wishes and is not vomiting

  • avoid anti-diarrhoea mixtures

  • bear in mind that the contraceptive pill is less effective when you have diarrhoea and other precautions should be taken until your next cycle.

Contact the doctor when the surgery is open if:

  • the diarrhoea is not subsiding after 5 days in an adult or 2 days in a child

  • the diarrhoea occurs after a foreign holiday

Contact the doctor straight away if:

  • you are worried about dehydration in a baby

  • there is severe, continuous abdominal pain with the diarrhoea

  • there is blood or pus in the diarrhoea

  • the diarrhoea is black

  • there is a persistent high temperature

  • the patient becomes unwell or drowsy