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Treatment for Diarrhea

health care provider drawing blood from a patient’s armDiarrhea is treated by replacing lost fluids, salts, and minerals to prevent dehydration.

Taking medicine to stop diarrhea can be helpful in some cases. Medicines you can buy over the counter without a prescription include loperamide (Imodium) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate). Stop taking these medicines if symptoms get worse or if the diarrhea lasts more than 2 days. If you have bloody diarrhea, you should not use over-the-counter diarrhea medicines. These medicines may make diarrhea last longer. The health care provider will usually prescribe antibiotics instead.

Over-the-counter medicines for diarrhea may be dangerous for babies and children. Talk with the health care provider before giving your child these medicines.

Eating, Diet, and Nutrition

To prevent dehydration when you have diarrhea, it is important to drink plenty of water, but you also need to drink fluids that contain sodium, chloride and potassium.

If you have diarrhea, eat soft, bland foods such as: Once the diarrhea stops, you can go back to eating your regular foods.

If a certain food is the cause of diarrhea, try to avoid it.

While you wait for the diarrhea to end, avoid foods that can make it worse:

During or after an episode of diarrhea, some people have trouble digesting lactose, the sugar in milk and milk products. However, you may be able to digest yogurt. Eating yogurt with active, live bacterial cultures may even help you feel better faster.

Drawing of a child drinking from a glass.When babies have diarrhea, continue breast feeding or formula feeding as usual.

After you have had diarrhea caused by a virus, problems digesting lactose may last up to 4 to 6 weeks. You may have diarrhea for a short time after you eat or drink milk or milk products.

How to Prevent Diarrhea

Two types of diarrhea can be prevented — rotavirus diarrhea and traveler’s diarrhea.

Rotavirus Diarrhea

Two vaccines, RotaTeq and Rotarix, protect against rotavirus — a common virus that causes diarrhea in babies and children. RotaTeq is given to babies in three doses at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. Rotarix is given in two doses. The first dose is given when the baby is 6 weeks old, and the second is given at least 4 weeks later but before the baby is 24 weeks old. To learn more about rotavirus vaccines, talk with your child’s health care provider. You can also find more information at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rotavirus vaccination web page at

RotaTeq and Rotarix only prevent diarrhea caused by rotavirus. Children who have been vaccinated may still get diarrhea from another cause.

Traveler’s Diarrhea

woman drinkingPeople may develop traveler’s diarrhea while visiting developing areas of the world such as Latin America, Africa, and southern Asia. Traveler’s diarrhea is caused by eating food or drinking water that contains harmful bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

You can prevent traveler’s diarrhea by being careful:

You can drink bottled water, carbonated soft drinks, and hot drinks such as coffee and tea.

Before traveling outside the United States, talk with your health care provider. Your health care provider may suggest taking medicine with you. In some cases, taking antibiotics before traveling can help prevent traveler’s diarrhea. And early treatment with antibiotics can shorten an episode of traveler’s diarrhea.

Points to Remember

Diarrhea also called: Dysentery, The runs, The trots