An adult who has diarrhea for more than three days or a child who has diarrhea for more than 24 hours should seek medical care, according to WebMD. Most cases of diarrhea are not medically significant, but in some cases, it can be a symptom of a serious condition.
Other symptoms that require immediate medical attention when someone has diarrhea include fever, signs of dehydration, blood in the stool, severe abdominal or rectal pain and black, tarry stools, WebMD advises. These symptoms can indicate conditions such as colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, pancreatitis or infection.
Most diarrhea cases go away on their own within 48 hours, WebMD states. It is essential to keep hydrated when having diarrhea, especially if it is accompanied by vomiting. Patients should drink water and fluids o replace lost sodium and electrolytes. Good choices include broth, fruit juices and soup.
It is also important for a patient with diarrhea to avoid fatty foods, WebMD suggests. Fried food, fatty cuts of meat, creamy sauces or rich, buttery desserts can be triggers for diarrhea, so patients should avoid them. Safer choices are roasted or baked foods with vegetables.
Periodic diarrhea symptoms that last more than two weeks constitute chronic diarrhea, WebMD states. Patients should see a doctor to determine what is causing the problem.