Diarrhoea (Guidance for Adults Only)
Diarrhoea is where you frequently pass watery or loose poo. Some people may also have other symptoms, depending on the cause. It affects most people from time to time and is usually nothing to worry about. However, it can be distressing and unpleasant until it passes, which normally takes a few days to a week.
If you have a stomach bug, you could be infectious to others. You’re most infectious from when the symptoms start until 2 days after they’ve passed. Stay off work until the symptoms have stopped for 2 days
Managing your condition
How can I avoid triggers/ suggested lifestyle changes?
Diarrhoea is often caused by an infection. You can reduce your risk by making sure you maintain high standards of hygiene.
For example, you should:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after going to the toilet and before eating or preparing food
- Clean the toilet seat, flush handles, taps with disinfectant after each bout of diarrhoea
- Avoid sharing towels, flannels, cutlery or utensils with others
- Wash soiled clothing and bed linen separately from other clothes and at the highest temperature
possible – for example, 60˚C or higher for linen – after first removing any poo into the toilet
- Avoid returning to work until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea
How do I treat?
Most cases of diarrhoea clear up after a few days without treatment. However, diarrhoea can lead to dehydration, so to avoid this
- Hydration – Drink plenty of fluids such as water and squash. Frequent small sips until symptoms stop. Avoid fruit juice or fizzy drinks they can make diarrhoea worse.
- Oral Rehydration Solutions – Your pharmacist may suggest using if you are particularly at risk of dehydration. These replace lost fluids along with electrolytes.
- Medicine – there are medicines to stop diarrhoea for a few hours these are not suitable for young children
- Eating – You should eat solid food as soon as you feel able to. If you’re breastfeeding or bottle
feeding your baby and they have diarrhoea, you should try to feed them as normal.
- Stay at home – to prevent spreading any infection to other stay home until at least 48 hours after
the last episode of diarrhoea and get plenty of rest.
- Speak to your pharmacist – for advice if you’re not sure which type of medicine is best for you and your symptoms.
When should I seek advice?
It is advisable to seek further advice if you notice any of the following:
- You are still dehydrated despite using oral rehydration sachets
- Have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from your bottom
- Have green or yellow vomit
- Have diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days
Where can I get more information?
- NHS Choices
- Your local community pharmacy