Diarrhea is a very common health problem, and it can range from a temporary and mild condition to a chronic and possibly health-threatening one. Usually, diarrhea occurs as a sign of a gastrointestinal infection that can result from bacterial or viral infections. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), viral gastroenteritis is a common cause of acute diarrhea. Contaminated food or drinking-water and poor hygiene are the most prevalent reasons for spreading infections. There are also many noninfectious causes of diarrhea, like food allergies and medication usage.¹

Diarrhea is loose, watery stools three or more times a day. When suffering from diarrhea, the digestion process becomes too fast to allow for the large intestine to absorb the excess liquid. Types of diarrhea vary from acute, persistent, chronic, and severe diarrhea.²

Acute Diarrhea

This type of diarrhea is a common issue and should not last more than 14 days. Like any type of diarrhea, it is defined by the sudden onset of loose stools 3 or more times a day. Symptoms of acute diarrhea include cramps, fever, vomiting, fatigue and nausea.³ Viruses (viral gastroenteritis) and bacteria are often identified as the cause of most cases of acute diarrhea. In children, the most common virus leading to acute diarrhea is rotavirus while norovirus is more common in adults.¹

Chronic or Persistent Diarrhea

While acute diarrhea should not last more than 14 days, chronic or persistent diarrhea lasts longer than two weeks and can last up to four weeks. It is defined as an episode in which diarrhea symptoms may come and go or remain throughout the episode. Unlike mild diarrhea which is only an inconvenience, chronic diarrhea can substantially impact your overall health and quality of life.⁴

Symptoms of persistent or chronic diarrhea include malnutrition, abdominal pain, weight loss and sometimes other symptoms of another underlying illness. Some of the signs you should look out for are sudden weight loss, blood in the stools or sleepless nights due to constant restroom visits.⁵ Malabsorption syndromes in which food cannot be digested and absorbed are common causes of chronic diarrhea. Some other prevalent causes include inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn disease and ulcerative colitis) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).⁴

Severity of Diarrhea

Finally, diarrhea can also be identified in terms of its severity. The number of stools and their size can help define its severity:⁶

  • Severe diarrhea is having more than ten watery stools in 24 hours
  • Moderate diarrhea stands for having many loose stools in a day, but not more than ten times
  • Mild diarrhea means having only a few loose and watery stools in a day

To treat mild or acute diarrhea cases, it is preferable to receive oral rehydration therapy (ORT) to treat or prevent dehydration.⁷ If pharmacological treatment is required, you can then use an antidiarrheal medication that contains Loperamide like IMODIUM® to treat mild or acute diarrhea.⁸ It enables the body to start absorbing fluids, salts, and nutrients as it normally would, helping you restore the gut’s natural rhythm and functions. You can also use IMODIUM® Instants, the fastest dissolving tablets for on-the-go effective relief that’s convenient and discreet. Learn more about how IMODIUM® helps treat acute diarrhea here.


  1. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diarrhea... - November 2016
  2. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diarrhea... - November 2016
  3. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/acute-diarrhea-in-adults-beyond-the-ba... - Mar 27, 2018
  4. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/chronic-diarrhea-in-adults-beyond-the-... - Oct 04, 2018
  5. https://gi.org/topics/diarrhea-acute-and-chronic/ - December 2012
  6. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/sig18272 - June 26, 2019
  7. https://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/documents/9241593180/en/ - 2005
  8. https://www.nhs.uk/medicines/loperamide/ - 18 February 2020