The runs, the trots, the squits...whatever you call it....diarrhoea affects everyone at one time or another. In most cases diarrhoea is more unpleasant and inconvenient than it is serious and will clear up by itself.


  • passing loose/watery stools (poo)
  • frequent need to defecate (more than 3 times a day)

What causes diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea is often caused by gastroenteritis which is an infection of the stomach and bowel resulting from bacteria, a parasite or a virus (such as norovirus). Anxiety can sometimes bring on diarrohea, as can drinking too much alcohol or coffee. Diarrhoea can also occur as a side-effect of some medication including some antibiotics.

Occasionally diarrhoea may be an indication of an underlying medical condition such as: irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease or bowel cancer.

Visit your GP if the diarrhoea has lasted more than a few weeks, if you have blood or pus in your faeces or if the patient is a child who has had six or more bouts of diarrhoea within 24 hours. Young children are at particular risk of dehydration caused by diarrhoea.

How to treat diarrhoea

Generally diarrhoea clears by itself within a few days. The most important thing is to drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated. Children are at particular risk of dehydration so it’s essential to give them frequent drinks.

  • Oral rehydration drinks are suitable for adults and children. These get dissolved in water and replace salt, glucose and minerals. A pharmacist can advise on the dose for a child.
  • Some antidiarrhoeal medicines are available over-the-counter for adults. These work by slowing down the contractions in your gut so more water can be absorbed making your stools less runny.
  • If the diarrhoea is caused by bacteria your GP may prescribe an antibiotic to rid you of this.
  • If a child is seriously dehydrated as a result of diarrhoea they will get treated in hospital to receive fluids and nutrients intravenously (via a drip).