What is diarrhea?

What is diarrhea
Let us understand What is Diarrhea

Hot, humid and rainy season brings with it many disease ailments out which diarrhea is most commonly reported. Lets understand What is Diarrhea? Commonly, Diarrhea is said to be passage of loose stools. World Health Organization defines diarrhea as passage of three or more loose or liquid stools in one day in frequency more than normal for any individual. Diarrhea can cause loss of fluid and vital body salts and lead to variable levels of dehydration.

What Results into Diarrhea

Diarrhea is usually a result of break in hygiene circle for e.g. feeding or eating with contaminated (dirty) hands, consumption of contaminated food and water. This is caused by bacterial, viral or parasitic infection. If infection is severe, passage of loose stools can be accompanied by fever and vomiting.

Frequent diarrhea can lead to malnutrition in children, and thus lead to low immunity to fight against other communicable diseases. So it is very important to prevent diarrhea. Diarrhea when complicated with dehydration leads to loss of fluids and electrolytes through frequent liquid stools and vomit. One also looses fluid and salts through urine, sweat and breathing. Fainting or dizziness can be a sign of acute weakness due to water loss.

Three Forms of Diarrhea

As per WHO, diarrhea can be of three forms. It can be ‘acute’ in nature lasting for several hours or a few days. It can be a ‘bloody’ diarrhea which is also called dysentery. Thirdly, it can be a ‘persistent’ diarrhea which lasts for 14 days or longer.

Viral and bacterial diarrheas are best treated by rehydration therapy using ‘Oral Rehydration Therapy’, Zinc supplements, if required Intravenous fluids. There is generally no requirement of antibiotics especially in children. Health professionals may prescribe antibiotics or anti parasitic only after complete evaluation of the cause.

It is important to report to a health worker or doctor when diarrhea persists beyond 2 days, accompanied with high fever, abdominal pain or when you see blood in stools.

I am a doctor and a public health specialist from Delhi. I have expertise in Obstetrics & Gynecology, child health and vaccinations. Formerly I worked with WHO’s immunization program in rural India as a technical consultant. I believe that accurate and relevant health information is the key to positive behavioral change subsequently leading to good health. I am an ardent traveler and a passionate writer.



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