Acute diarrhea is characterised by watery stool with an increase in volume and frequency. It should last less than 14 days to be termed acute instead of chronic or persistent diarrhea. Persistent diarrhea lasts between 2 and 4 weeks, and chronic diarrhea can last longer than 4 weeks. Despite being one of the most common health issues, the cause of acute diarrhea is rarely identified, especially in cases that improve without treatment.¹ This article will discuss the symptoms, causes and preventive methods to help you identify and avoid acute diarrhea.

What Are the Symptoms of Acute Diarrhea?

The most apparent signs of diarrhea are consistency, volume and frequency of passed stools. Diarrheal stools are often described as watery and loose stools. Other associated symptoms include the following: fever, nausea, vomiting, cramps and fatigue. On the other side, more serious symptoms like weight loss, malnutrition, blood in stools or severe abdominal pain can indicate chronic diarrhea.² In this case, a professional evaluation will be required to identify the underlying illness.

What Causes Acute Diarrhea?

Acute diarrhea can result from infections or other noninfectious factors. Here are some of the prevalent causes of acute diarrhea:³ 
  • Viral gastroenteritis through contact with an infected person.
  • Travel, comorbidities and foodborne illness can lead to bacteria-related cases of acute diarrhea.
  • Noninfectious causes like acute abdominal processes, gastroenterologic disease and endocrine disease.
  • Infections that result from eating or drinking contaminated food or water
  • Medication adverse effects and side effect of some medications or antibiotics
  • Gastrointestinal diseases like inflammatory bowel disease
  • Medical conditions associated with diarrhea like ulcerative colitis, Crohn disease, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease and lactose intolerance.

How to Prevent or Treat Acute Diarrhea?

To treat mild or acute diarrhea cases, it is preferable to receive oral rehydration therapy (ORT) to treat or prevent dehydration.⁴ If pharmacological treatment is required, diarrhea can be treated through antidiarrheal medications that help reduce the frequency of bowel movements. These are safe if there is no fever or bloody stools accompanying diarrhea.⁵
IMODIUM®, an antidiarrheal medicine that contains the active ingredient Loperamide, is available without a prescription. It helps calm the intestines to restore the normal process and movement of the digestive system. IMODIUM® also allows your body to start absorbing nutrients, fluids and salts as it should.
Despite being a prevalent issue, one can prevent diarrhea altogether by following these simple actions:⁶
  • Avoid bacteria and viruses with proper hygiene and regular hand washing to prevent infection
  • Use water and soap to kill viruses that alcohol-based sanitizers cannot kill
  • Avoid sudden dietary changes including intake of tea, sugary soda, dietetic foods and sweets that contain hard to absorb sugars
  • When travelling to developing countries be extra cautious of eating and drinking contaminated or raw foods and beverages
  • Keep the food preparation and cooking area clean and wash food properly before cooking or consuming
  • Serve food directly after preparing and refrigerate leftover food properly
Visit our FAQ section for more information about diarrhea and how IMODIUM® can help you manage it.