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Diarrhea Treatment and Over-The-Counter Medications

Diarrhea can be caused by many different factors, including:

  • infections (viral and bacterial)

  • Food intolerances, such as lactose

  • Side effect of antibiotic treatment

  • Diseases like celiac, irritable bowel syndrome or crohn’s disease

Diarrhea is usually self limiting and does not require treatment, however treating diarrhea may shorten your recovery period and minimize the discomfort.

How to Treat Diarrhea

  • Stay hydrated with water and electrolytes (gastrolyte)

  • Avoid irritating foods such as milk, dairy, coffee, spicy foods, fried, fatty, greasy foods

  • Take medications to help control the symptoms

Over-The-Counter Medications for Diarrhea

Bismuth Subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol)

  • Taken 2 tabs every 30 mins, to a maximum of 8 doses/day

  • Liquid 30ml every 30 mins, to a maximum of 8 doses/day

  • Should not be taken for more than 3 weeks

  • Can also relieve nausea, heartburn, indigestion and upset stomach

Common Side Effects

  • Black tongue

  • Dark stool

  • Nausea

  • Constipation

Who Should Not Take It

  • People allergic to ASA or aspirin

  • People with kidney disease

  • People who are pregnant

  • Children under the age of 2

  • Children currently with a flu infection or chicken pox

Loperamide (Imodium)

  • Used for mild to moderate symptoms (1-5 stools per day)

  • Severe cases need to be treated with antibiotic, speak with your doctor

  • Can use in children 2 years and up

  • Safe in pregnancy

How to Take

  • 4mg (two tabs) asap then 1 tab (2mg) after each bowel movement

  • Maximum of 16mg/day

  • Children: 1-2 mg start, then 1-2 mg after each bowel movement

    • Max 3mg daily for 3-5 years

    • Max 4mg for 5-8 years

    • Max 6mg for 8-12 years

Common Side Effects

  • Abdominal cramps

  • Drowsiness

  • Dizziness

  • Dry mouth

  • Skin rash

Probiotics (Lactobacillus)

  • Used for antibiotic associated diarrhea

  • Taken 2 hours after a dose of antibiotics for prevention of antibiotic associated diarrhea

  • Not well studied for any other types of diarrhea

  • Take at least 5 Billion strength, higher doses has shown to have improved efficacy

Side Effects

  • Gas

  • Bloating

  • Constipation

When to talk to your Doctor

  • When you have frequent diarrhea - it may mean you have a medical conditions and need further treatment

  • When your diarrhea lasts longer than 2 days without getting any better

  • You have a fever accompanying your diarrheal symptoms

  • You have 6 or more stools per day

  • Blood or white/clear mucus in your stool

What Can You Do To Prevent Getting Diarrhea

  • Peel and boil fruits and vegetables

  • Drink bottled water

  • Get vaccinated from common viral causes of diarrhea

  • Avoid intolerant food

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