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Diarrhea is the medical condition of having frequent loose or watery stools. Diarrhea causes a loss of fluids, electrolytes, and nutrients which can cause severe dehydration, and can lead to death if not treated. Acute diarrhea is a common cause for death in developing countries, and the second highest cause of infant deaths worldwide.

Symptoms associated with diarrhea

  • loose or watery stool
  • frequent bowel movements
  • cramping pain in the abdomen
  • chills
  • fever

Symptoms normally subside after an hour, but can last several hours. If the diarrhea lasts for several days, a physicial should be contacted. Diarrhea can be serious, especially in infants and the elderly, if the lost fluids and nutrients are not replaced.

Causes of diarrhea

  • Gastroenteritis caused by viral infections, parasites or bacterial toxins
  • Certain medications, such as antibiotics

Diarrhea often goes away by itself, but can be a sign of a more serious problem. You should talk to your doctor if your diarrhea lasts for more than 3 days. You should also call your doctor if you have

  • signs of dehydration
  • a severe pain in your abdomen or rectum
  • a fever of 102 °F or higher
  • stools that are bloody or black

See also