When Is Diarrhea Dangerous?

Diarrhea is a fairly common condition and is characterized by loose, watery bowel movements.  It is often referred to, colloquially, as the stomach flu or intestinal flu. Diarrhea, however, isn’t defined as a single occurrence of loose, watery stools, but is instead the experience of this condition three or more times over the course of one day. Diarrhea can either be acute or chronic in nature.

Acute diarrhea 

Acute diarrhea occurs when the condition lasts for one to two days and is the result of an infection, either bacterial or viral or is the result of an infection or possible food poisoning

Chronic diarrhea

Chronic diarrhea refers to diarrhea that lasts for at least four weeks. It is usually the result of a digestive disorder, such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease

Common causes of diarrhea

Some common causes of diarrhea, whether chronic or acute include the following:

Common symptoms of diarrhea

In considering when or whether to seek medical care, it is important to be cognizant of the symptoms of diarrhea.  A few common symptoms include:

When is diarrhea considered dangerous?

Generally speaking, diarrhea is a common occurrence, but for some people, diarrhea may become dangerous. It is imperative to know when it is time for you to seek medical attention.

Diarrhea that lasts more than two to three days is automatically suspect, because that is the standard course of regular diarrhea. If your bout of diarrhea lasts longer than that, it is time to seek medical care. 

Symptoms of severe diarrhea

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should contact a qualified gastroenterologist immediately:

One of the most dangerous side effects of diarrhea is dehydration, leaving your body without any of the fluids it needs to work properly.

Possible treatments

For most types of diarrhea, those which typically resolve on its own, the treatment is nominal.  For more severe cases, your physician will attempt to determine the cause and treat it.

In either case, it is important to stay hydrated. Dehydration can be life-threatening if left untreated. There are several different treatments for diarrhea.


Antibiotics help treat diarrhea that is caused by bacteria

Fluid replacement

It is advisable to replace the fluids and salts lost to diarrhea. Some people can tolerate drinking water or broth. Some people can replace those fluids and salts by consuming drinks, especially sports drinks, containing electrolytes. Other people may need IV fluids to get more immediate results.

Treat underlying conditions

For some people, diarrhea is the cause of a more serious condition, much as an inflammatory bowel disease in cases of these, your doctor will work with you to address the underlying condition. 

If you are experiencing severe diarrhea, please give our office a call.  As a team of experienced gastroenterologists, with three offices located across Miami, GastroMed would be delighted to work with you to get you back into good health. We have the experience, expertise, and compassion to help you achieve your health goals. Please call us today at the location of your choice. You may also request an appointment by booking directly online

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