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Having diarrhea means you pass loose, watery stools at least three times a day. Most diarrhea lasts one to two days and goes away on its own. Diarrhea that lasts more than two days might be a sign of a more serious problem.

Diarrhea: what you should know

  • Most acute (short-term) diarrhea results from infection, whether viral, bacterial or parasitic. But because it usually goes away on its own, its exact cause often remains unknown.
  • Other common causes of diarrhea are food allergies and sensitivities. If you suspect food sensitivities might be causing your diarrhea, doctors at the Rush Celiac Disease and Food Sensitivities Clinic can help.
  • Diarrhea is common in adults and children. In the U.S., adults have acute diarrhea and average of one time each year; for children, the average is twice a year.
  • Gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) cause most cases of chronic (long-term) diarrhea.

How can I get help for diarrhea?

One serious risk of diarrhea is dehydration, or the loss of too much water and electrolytes from your body. You should see your primary care doctor if you have any of these signs of dehydration and it does not go away:

  • Persistent thirst
  • Less frequent urination or dark-colored urine
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness or light-headedness

In addition, you should see your doctor if you have diarrhea that lasts longer than two days or is accompanied by any of these symptoms:

  • Abdominal or rectal pain
  • A fever of 102 or higher
  • Stools containing blood or pus
  • Black or tarry stools
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Care for diarrhea at Rush

If your primary care doctor recommends further evaluation and testing, Rush has many specialists who can help find cause of your distress.

Why choose Rush for diarrhea care

  • Rush has a program for abdominal and pelvic health issues that can address the full spectrum of issues that could be causing diarrhea. The program has a coordinator who can help you navigate the multiple specialists you might need to see to find relief.
  • At Rush, your children can see pediatric gastroenterologists and other clinicians who specialize in treating children with gastrointestinal conditions.

Departments and programs that treat this condition