How to deal with diarrhoea

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There might be lots of jokes about it, but anyone who has suffered from diarrhoea will tell you it’s not funny at all. This fairly common problem isn’t actually a disease in itself, but is usually a symptom of other ailments, such as food poisoning, stomach flu or even cholera.   

Even though it’s common, don’t be fooled into thinking it isn’t serious. In severe cases, diarrhoea could lead to extreme dehydration, especially in children, and this can be very dangerous.    

What is diarrhoea?

Diarrhea describes the condition when a person has loose, watery stools that occur more frequently than usual, leading to extreme dehydration in some instances.Dehydration means there is a severe  shortage of water in your body.     It can happen to anyone, but is more common in children and older people.People who have diarrhoea and are dehydrated will show signs of extreme tiredness and dizziness, and have a dry mouth and chapped lips.

To see if your child is dehydrated, you could gently pinch the skin on the side of their stomach.When you release it, it should return to normal. If it doesn’t return quickly, your child needs immediate medical attention, as dehydration could even lead to death.   

What are the causes?   

Many things can cause diarrhoea, including food poisoning, a viral stomach flu, infection, mal-absorption (when your small intestine doesn’t absorb fluids properly) and other diseases of the stomach.   

Can it be transmitted?    

There are different types of diarrhoea, and some can be passed from one person to another. This can happen if someone who’s infected doesn’t wash their hands after going to the toilet and then prepares food or has casual contact with someone else.    

Short-term diarrhoea is usually caused by viral infection and clears up by itself. Some of the viruses that can cause diarrhoea include Norwalk virus (the virus that causes gastroenteritis) and viral hepatitis. Rotavirus is a common cause of acute childhood diarrhoea.  Another type of diarrhoea is caused by bacteria in food or water which has been contaminated. It’s known as food poisoning, and can sometimes be very serious. Parasites, called amoeba and giardia, can also cause a type of diarrhoea.          

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