Diarrhea in Teens: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Diarrhea is loose, watery stools (bowel movements). The exact cause of diarrhea is often hard to find. Sometimes diarrhea is your body's way to get rid of what caused an upset stomach. Viruses, a foodborne illness, and many medicines can cause diarrhea. Some people get diarrhea in response to emotional stress, anxiety, or certain foods.

Almost everyone has diarrhea now and then. It usually is not serious, and your stools will return to normal soon. The important thing to do is replace the fluids you have lost to prevent dehydration.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Watch for signs of dehydration, which means your body has lost too much water. Dehydration is a serious condition and should be treated right away. Signs of dehydration are:
    • Increasing thirst and dry eyes and mouth.
    • Feeling faint or light-headed.
    • Darker urine, and a smaller amount of urine than normal.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is light yellow or clear like water. Choose water and other caffeine-free clear liquids until you feel better. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Begin eating small amounts of mild foods the next day, if you feel like it.
    • Try yogurt that has live cultures of Lactobacillus (check the label).
    • Avoid spicy foods, fruits, alcohol, and caffeine until 48 hours after all symptoms go away.
    • Avoid chewing gum that contains sorbitol.
  • The doctor may recommend that you take over-the-counter medicine, such as loperamide (Imodium), if you still have diarrhea after 6 hours. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not use this medicine if you have bloody diarrhea, a high fever, or other signs of serious illness. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You pass maroon or very bloody stools.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • Your stools are black and tar-like or have streaks of blood.
  • You have diarrhea and your belly pain or cramps are worse.
  • You have signs of needing more fluids. You have sunken eyes and a dry mouth, and you pass only a little dark urine.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have 12 or more loose stools in 24 hours.
  • You see pus in the diarrhea.
  • You have a new or higher fever.
  • Your diarrhea does not get better or is more frequent.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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