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At-Home Diarrhea Treatment

By Staff Writer

At-Home Diarrhea TreatmentDiarrhea is the sudden onset of unusually loose and watery stools. It can be caused by infections from viruses, bacteria or parasites, food intolerance, reactions to medicine, intestinal diseases and functional bowel disorders. While most cases of acute diarrhea end on their own, over-the-counter medicines may help relieve symptoms.

Treat diarrhea by type

Loperamide (Imodium-AD) is a commonly used over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicine. It can help decrease the frequency of stools and reduce stomach cramping. Loperamide can also help limit the loss of water and minerals. It works by relaxing and slowing movement in the intestines. If you’re experiencing gas with diarrhea, you can use a combination antidiarrheal and antigas product, such as Imodium Advanced. Another popular over-the-counter medicine is Pepto-Bismol® (bismuth subsalicylate). Pepto-Bismol can be used for mild diarrhea and can help relieve an upset stomach or heartburn. Do not take this product if you’re allergic to aspirin or have recently had chickenpox or the flu. If your diarrhea is mild, try an adsorbent diarrhea medication. These products remove excess liquid from your intestines and form bulk. Popular adsorbent remedies include Kaopectate® antidiarrheal liquid and caplets. For alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation, consider a product containing polycarbophil. This ingredient is similar to the absorbents – it removes excess liquids from the intestines and is safe and effective for treating diarrhea and constipation. The fiber laxative caplets FiberCon® contain polycarbophil.

Diarrhea warnings

Don’t use any diarrhea medication for more than 48 hours. When using an over-the-counter drug for diarrhea, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. In most situations, drinking fluids will not make diarrhea worse. Although water is extremely important in preventing dehydration, it does not contain electrolytes. To get the necessary electrolyte, you could try broth or soups, which contain sodium, and fruit juices, soft fruits, or vegetables, which contain potassium. Some people are more at risk for serious problems from diarrhea. Children under three years, pregnant women, and people with AIDS, diabetes, or heart disease should see a doctor when they have diarrhea. Also, if any of the following conditions apply, contact your doctor: diarrhea that lasts more than two days, a fever of 101 degrees F (38 degrees C) or higher, dehydration weight loss equal to 5% of total body weight, bloody stools, moderate to severe stomach cramping.


Sources: Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. American Pharmaceutical Association, 2000.Micromedex® Healthcare Series. Thomson Micromedex, 2006.Drug Facts and Comparisons, Facts & Comparisons, 2006.Kroser, J.A., "Evaluation of the adult patient with diarrhea," Primary Care; Clinics in Office Practice, 26 (1996).Aranda-Michel, J., R.A. Giannella. "Acute Diarrhea: A Practical Review," The American Journal of Medicine 106 (1999).Griffith's 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc., 1999. Digestive Diseases, "Diarrhea."http://www.niddk.nih.gov. National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse. Last accessed 11/10/2006.This answer prepared 7/13/01. This answer updated 11/10/2006.

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