Diarrhea is loose, watery, or more frequent stools (poop). Although it can be upsetting, diarrhea is rarely a sign of something serious and usually goes away in a few days.
What Causes Diarrhea?
Diarrhea can be caused by many things, including infections like viral gastroenteritis ("stomach flu"), bacteria, or parasites. It often happens along with cramping belly pain and sometimes nausea, vomiting, fever, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
Other causes of diarrhea include food allergies, lactose intolerance, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis), celiac disease, and taking some types of medicines.
How Is Diarrhea Treated?
Diarrhea usually goes away in a few days with home care, rest, and plenty of fluids. But sometimes, mostly in babies, it can lead to dehydration that needs to be treated with IV fluids and care in a hospital.
Diarrhea that lasts more than 2 weeks or keeps happening might be a sign of an underlying medical problem that needs further testing.
What Else Should I Know About Diarrhea?
Many cases of diarrhea are caused by germs that spread easily through dirty hands, contaminated food or water, or contact with dirty diapers or the toilet.
Washing hands well and often is the best way to help prevent spreading infection. Everyone in your family should wash their hands after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.