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

You Might Also Enjoy...

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Your IBS

IBS causes an array of symptoms, and no single treatment works for all. However, you can take control of your IBS by making a few lifestyle changes, such as adding fiber to your diet, avoiding certain foods, and getting regular exercise.

The Link between Alcoholism and Pancreatitis

Alcoholism is a chronic and serious condition that affects your social, emotional, and physical health. Though not all heavy drinkers develop pancreatitis, there’s a strong link between alcohol use and the painful pancreatic condition.

IBS versus IBD

With similar symptoms and acronyms, it’s easy to confuse irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, IBS and IBD are two very different gastrointestinal conditions. Click here to learn more about IBS and IBD.

Are Your Symptoms Due to Hepatitis?

Though hepatitis may develop from many causes, the liver condition doesn’t always create noticeable symptoms. Being aware of the subtle symptoms of hepatitis may help you get the diagnosis and treatment you need before serious liver damage occurs.

10 Symptoms of Liver Disease

Liver disease is a serious health condition that may lead to long-term health complications. Symptoms of liver disease aren’t always obvious, but knowing some of the common symptoms may help you get an early diagnosis and treatment.

Help! I Have Blood in My Stool

Blood in your stool is alarming and can make you feel a bit on edge. Though rarely caused by a life-threatening condition, you should never ignore bloody stools. Getting the right diagnosis eases anxiety and ensures you get the right treatment.