This post was written by Olusanya Oluwatomi and edited by Lani Sodunke.
Diarrhea is one of the most common minor ailments people experience regularly. It can be traced to increased fast food consumption compared with very little enforcement of proper hygiene among food vendors. It occurs as frequent watery stools once it begins, and on many occasions, there could be some lower abdominal pains too.
Diarrhea occurs mainly due to infections (bacterial or viral), food poisoning, food allergies/intolerance, medication side effects (like some antibiotics), etc. It could be acute, lasting at most for a few days or chronic, lasting a couple of weeks. The chronic type occurs mainly due to underlying conditions such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel disease.
The loose nature of the stool passed, and the frequency of diarrhea causes an individual to lose a lot of body fluid, including glucose and electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium, etc. This dehydration can lead to severe fatigue.
Diarrhea in Children
The most common causes of diarrhea in children are food intolerance, infections, and medication side effects.
Diarrhea in children is quite dangerous and has led to quite a number of deaths. This is because children have a lesser ability to cope with significant fluid and electrolyte loss. For them, Oral Rehydration Solution is the most important step in dealing with diarrhea. This solution quickly helps replenish lost fluids, glucose, and electrolytes to energize a child, especially when little food is consumed.
Oral Rehydration Salts are readily available at pharmacies and stores. Before use, it is important to ask the pharmacist or doctor the right quantity for your child. However, discard any content remaining after 24 hours and make a new one if necessary. A tablet of zinc (10mg) is also recommended.
While giving this ORS to a child, it’s still important to consult a physician who might ask for one or two stool tests to be conducted just in case there is an infection. In most cases when a child has an infection, antibiotics will be prescribed.
Diarrhea in Adults
Adults have a greater ability to deal with diarrhea; hence many people erroneously believe that ORS is for only children. However, this is not totally true. The same dynamics of fluid and electrolyte loss apply, and they will need to be replaced.
The most common reason adults experience diarrhea is food poisoning. Though it usually runs for a couple of hours and stops, adults can take ORS to replace fluids lost due to persistent diarrhea, especially when they cannot take in regular food. Like children, some kinds of diarrhea can be due to infections, which can only be determined after your physician recommends specific lab tests. Many adults are fond of popping metronidazole tablets whenever they have diarrhea, but that’s simply antibiotics misuse and can lead to resistance later.
For adults who need to stop diarrhea immediately due to work and work-related schedules, diarrhea tablets like loperamide can be helpful. Still, it’s important to note that taking this is not always the best solution because there could be an underlying infection hence the importance of seeing a medical expert. Diarrhea lasting for weeks is an indicator of an underlying condition such as irritable bowel disease, celiac disease etc., and such requires the attention of a specialist immediately.