Understanding Diarrhoea

Understanding Diarrhoea

Diarrhea can be medically defined as the passage of three or more loose liquid stools in a day (or more frequent passage than is normal for a person). This should not be confused with frequent passing of formed stool or the loose or sometimes pasty stool that is common in babies who are still being breastfed. In most cases diarrhea is a symptom of an intestinal tract infection which can be the result of a parasitic, bacterial or viral infection. The infection is mostly spread through eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated water or from individual to another as a result of poor hygiene.

Diarrhea is clinically divided into three main categories:

  • Persistent diarrhoea which lasts for more than 2 weeks
  • Acute bloody diarrhoea which is also called dysentery
  • Acute watery diarrhoea which can last for a few hours or days and can include cholera

According to the World Health Organisation Diarrhea disease is currently the leading cause of child morbidity and mortality in the world. This easily preventable disease apparently kills an estimated 525,000 children annually.  The most severe threat posed by this disease is dehydration. During a diarrhea episode an individual looses water and important electrolytes (bicarbonate, chloride, sodium and potassium) through stool, breathing vomit, sweat and even urine. Dehydration will happen if what is lost is not replaced. Common cause of diarrhea disease include a host of viral parasitic and bacterial infection, malnutrition, contaminated water, contaminated food, fish and seafood sources from polluted sources.

How to avoid diarrhea infections

Prevention of diarrhea is pretty easy and revolves around great hygiene. You can prevent diarrhea in the following ways;

Hand washing

This is hand down one of the mot effective ways to prevent diarrhea since it stop the spread of the bacteria, parasites and viruses that can cause this terrible affliction. Wash your hands thoroughly after changing diapers, after using the toilet and before meals even if it is just a snack or fruit.

Hygienic food preparation

Follow these simple rules when preparing food to avoid the occurrence of diarrhea

Always store any food that can be spoilt in the fridge

Any stored foods must be kept inside clean containers

Meat should be cooked thoroughly

Avoid eating raw shellfish, fish and meat unless you are absolutely sure that they are freshly prepared by a reliable source

It is important to avoid placing food on surfaces or even plates that have help raw meat and have not been washed thoroughly suing soap and clean water

Regularly disinfect stove tops, chopping boards and bench tops with a diluted bleach solution

Fruits and vegetable must be thoroughly washed in clean and preferably running water to remove all the bacteria, dirty and germs that may have accumulated on the surface.

 Drink clean water

All the water you use for cooking and cleaning should be clean. To be absolutely safe in cases where you doubt the cleanliness of the water you can boil it to kill of the germs and bacteria.


Treatment options for diarrhea infections

Since in most cases of diarrhea infections will resolve on their own within a few days, the best form of treatment is self-care to resolve the discomfort and symptoms.

  • Avoid dairy products, sugary foods and caffeine
  • Consume paracetamol
  • Place a hot water bottle on your stomach to relieve the tension and discomfort
  • In case you develop a rah from the diarrhea apply castor oil and zinc ointment
  • Avoid anti-inflammatory non-steroidal drugs like diclofenac, aspirin and even ibuprofen because such medications can further aggravate the diarrhea
  • Avoid Anti-diarrhea medications such as Imodium which slow the diarrhea because such drugs will hinder your body from naturally getting rid of the virus or bacteria that may have caused the infection in the first place.
  • To avoid dehydration, it is recommended that you drink plenty of liquids by taking small and frequent sips. Ideal liquids to re-hydrate include soups, broths, non diluted caffeinated sports drinks such as Gatorade, re-hydration formulations such as Gastrolyte-most of these are available in your local pharmacy.
  • Another effective treatment is consuming oral re-hydration solution (ORS) which can either be bought at the pharmacy or simply mix clean water, salt and sugar on your won.

In an effort to avoid mortality rate in children because of diarrhoeal infections, most government around the world have funded rotavirus vaccines which are given to babies within the 6 months (rotavirus is a common cause of diarrhoea in children). Ask your doctor about this vaccine to help keep your young one safe.