Dealing with the condition
Diarrhoea is passing looser or more frequent stools than is normal for you.
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.
There are many different causes of diarrhoea, but a bowel infection (gastroenteritis) is a common cause in both adults and children.
Gastroenteritis can be caused by a virus – such as norovirus or rotavirus,
bacteria – such as campylobacter and Escherichia coli (E. coli), which are often picked up from contaminated food or a parasite – such as the parasite that causes giardiasis, which is spread in contaminated water. These infections can sometimes be caught during travel abroad, particularly to areas with poor standards of public hygiene. This is known as travellers' diarrhoea.
Diarrhoea can also be the result of anxiety, a food allergy, medication, bowel cancer or a long-term condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
Persisting diarrhoea needs to be investigated. A stool test and a colonoscopy are the main investigations of choice.