Healthy Living

Diarrhea: When to Call a Doctor

Diarrhea: When to Call a Doctor

Diarrhea is an unwelcome digestive woe that lasts for 2 to 3 days and generally goes away itself. If it lasts more than 3 to 4 days, it becomes a matter of concern. Diarrhea lasting for more days than usual may be a sign of severity and it can be life-threatening if not treated properly. If someone starts to show symptoms of severe diarrhea, he should call a doctor to consult about his illness without making any delay. Here are some cases where one needs to call their doctor and develop a treatment plan.

Traveler's Diarrhea

Travelers or tourists stay in different parts of the world and they are an easy target for diarrhea termed 'traveler's diarrhea'. It is caused by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. The risk of contracting diarrhea significantly increases by eating from street vendors. If one's diarrhea continues for more than 4 days, he must not wait to stay at home. If you also have severe dehydration, persistent vomiting, bloody stools or a high fever, seek medical help. The local embassy or consulate may be able to help you find a well-regarded medical professional who speaks your language. He should call a doctor first to get the primary instructions and go to the hospital for stool tests to find out if there is any chance of a severe case of diarrhea. In case of pregnant women and children with traveler’s diarrhea it is best to contact the doctor right away.

Digestive Disorders

Different medical conditions such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease are some likely culprates of diarrhea. Each has different symptoms and causes, though all of them lead to uncomfortable abdominal pain and muscle aches. One must call a good doctor if they think one of their existing conditions may be causing their diarrhea. These conditions might be the reason behind his diarrhea, but it's best to let a medical professional decide.

Diarrhea and Medications

Many medications given for treatment of certain medical conditions may cause diarrhea. If you notice the onset of your diarrhea coincided with the intake of new medication then, it is important to consult your doctor immediately. The doctor may stop the medication to see if the diarrhea stops and/or may prescribe alternate medications.

Diarrhea after Surgery

Surgeries in and around the digestive system can cause diarrhea as a potential side effect. If you have such a surgery and notice diarrhea that does not subside after a few days then it is important to contact your doctor.

Diarrhea due to food sensitivity

Sometimes young children may be eating something that is difficult to digest for their digestive system. The type of food may vary from person to person. Lactose intolerance is a common food sensitivity. This may give rise to diarrhea along with other symptoms. If you suspect your child’s diarrhea is caused by food sensitivity then speak with your doctor.

Dehydration from Diarrhea

Dehydration is a common problem if someone has diarrhea. One must ensure enough intake of water to heal and stay hydrated.

If drinking enough water or fruit juice does not work, and the situation starts to worsen, one must not delay calling a doctor to know what to do. The patient should follow the doctor's instructions and do the tests if he requests any.

When the Symptoms Get Serious

Diarrhea does not bear any great significance most of the time, but there is always the chance it can progress to a life threatening stage.

Parents must call a doctor if their child's diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours or up to 3 days for adults. One must seek help from a doctor if he finds any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe abdominal or rectal pain
  • Blood going with stool
  • Fever
  • Sign of dehydration

If the treatment is delayed it can cause a serious type of bowel disease, attack the pancreas or cause colon cancer.

Seeking Doctors Help

Here is a list of cases when one must take suggestion from a doctor either by calling him or going to the nearby hospital:

1. For children:

  • If diarrhea continues for more than 24 hours.
  • If he has a fever of more than 102 F.
  • If he is delivering black stools
  • If he is feeling too uncomfortable and crying very often.
  • If he has a sunken appearance to his abdomen, eyes or cheek.
  • If his skin looks pale.

2. For adults:

  • If diarrhea lasts for more than three days.
  • If there is a feeling of dehydration, dry mouth, severe weakness, dark-colored urine
  • If the stool is bloody or dark in color.
  • If the fever is more than 102 F.


Medications are a must to start diarrhea treatment. Doctors may suggest few medicines and their instructions are typically very clear. But if the medicines do not work on the patient and he does not recover from his diarrhea within few days or up to a week, they should call the doctor to get an idea on what to do. The doctor may suggest alternative medicines that might prove more effective.

When Diarrhea Persists

If diarrhea stays for more than 4 weeks, it is considered chronic diarrhea. One must call a doctor for their assistance as this is the most serious type of diarrhea. Doctors may ask few questions such as:

  • How long has the disease been persisting?
  • Does the diarrhea come and go or is continuous?
  • Does the patient have any other symptoms?
  • What are the foods the patient has recently eaten?
  • Is the patient taking other medicines?
  • Is there any presence of blood in the stool?

The Bottom Line

Though diarrhea is typically a condition that passes on its own, one must be very careful of their physical condition, as well as the symptoms, when he has diarrhea. Do not wait for a single moment if the symptoms seem unusual, as it can lead to life-threatening conditions. Calling a doctor is a must in this case. In case of young children and infants it is best to consult with your doctor at the earliest if symptoms worsen. Getting an expert's advice on matters like Diarrhea is crucial if it gets out of hand, because as they say, a doctor is the only expert when it comes to human bodies.