Diarrhea is when your stools are loose and watery. You may also need to go to the bathroom more often.

Diarrhea is a common problem. It may last 1 or 2 days and goes away on its own.

If diarrhea lasts more than 2 days it may mean you have a more serious problem.

Diarrhea may be either:

  • Short-term (acute). Diarrhea that lasts 1 or 2 days and goes away. This may be caused by having food or water that was made unsafe by a bacterial infection. Or it may happen if you get sick from a virus.
  • Long-term (chronic). Diarrhea that lasts several weeks. This may be caused by another health problem such as irritable bowel syndrome. It can also be caused by an intestinal disease such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease. Some infections such as parasites can cause chronic diarrhea.


Each person’s symptoms may vary. Symptoms of diarrhea may include:

  • Belly (abdominal) cramps
  • Stomach pain
  • Swelling (bloating)
  • Upset stomach (nausea)
  • Urgent need to go to the bathroom
  • Fever
  • Bloody stools
  • Loss of body fluids (dehydration)
  • Leaking stool and not being able to control your bowels (incontinence)

Dehydration is a serious side effect of diarrhea. Symptoms include:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Not urinating as often
  • Having dry skin as well as a dry mouth and nostrils (mucous membranes)
  • Feeling very tired
  • Feeling that you may pass out or faint (lightheaded)
  • Headaches
  • Fast heart rate
  • Sunken fontanelle (soft spot) on baby's head

Diarrhea symptoms may look like other health problems.  Bloody diarrhea is always a concern. Always see your doctor to be sure. Be sure to tell the doctor about any bleeding, fever, or vomiting.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your healthcare provider if:

  • You have diarrhea more often
  • You have a greater amount of diarrhea
  • You have symptoms of dehydration. You may feel thirsty, tired, or dizzy. You may also have less urine, or a dry mouth.
  • You have diarrhea with rectal bleeding or black and tarry stools, a fever, or are vomiting