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Diarrhoea is the frequent passing of watery and unformed faeces. You can use the Bristol Stool Chart to check what your faeces should look like.

What causes diarrhoea? 

Diarrhoea has many possible causes including:

  • bowel or stomach infection
  • food allergies or intolerances such as lactose intolerance 
  • alcohol 
  • the use of stimulant laxatives, especially if overused or used incorrectly
  • bowel diseases including diverticulitis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or irritable bowel syndrome
  • some medicines, such as antibiotics
  • long lasting constipation 
  • a shortened bowel as a result of surgery to remove some of the bowel, and
  • radiotherapy.

Treatment options

If you experience severe diarrhoea it is important to seek medical advice.  Older people, babies and young children should particularly be seen by a doctor.

Treatments for diarrhoea depend on the cause, but may include:

  • fluids to prevent dehydration (including oral dehydration supplements to replace lost salts and minerals)
  • intravenous fluids, or
  • medications such as anti-diarrhoeal treatment, antibiotics or anti-nausea drugs (which should be prescribed by a doctor, after diagnosing the cause of the diarrhoea).