If you have ever had a bout of mysterious diarrhea, then you likely know what it is like to wonder whether you should just "wait it out" and see if it clears up on its own or visit the emergency room for emergency medical treatment. This is common, because the causes of diarrhea can vary so drastically that it can be tough to tell whether a bout of it is the start of a serious infection, a mild cold, or even just result of eating a new food.
While it is always best to err on the side of "staying safe" and visiting a doctor any time you feel your health is compromised, read on to find out what medical professionals have to say about diarrhea treatment.
Wait it out if...
There are instances when simply waiting it out for a day or two is just fine when dealing with diarrhea. The bodies of most adults who are in general good health can endure diarrhea for about 48 hours before becoming dehydrated. However, once the signs of dehydration set in and/or the diarrhea persists longer than 48 hours, it is best to seek emergency medical treatment to have the dehydration treated with IV fluids and find out just what is causing the intestinal problem.
Just a few signs of dehydration include dry lips, a "sunken" look to the eyes, and/or a headache. When not caused by a severe medical problem, dehydration is one of the biggest health hazards of enduring bouts of diarrhea for too long.
Visit the emergency room if...
While in most circumstances, adults in overall good health who are experiencing diarrhea can wait a couple of days to see if it resolves on its own, there are instances when seeking emergency medical treatment earlier is the best idea.
Babies should be taken to the ER if their diarrhea persists longer than 12 hours, whether they are otherwise in good health or not, and especially if they are also vomiting.
Children should also be treated in an ER sooner than adults, and if their diarrhea has persisted longer than 24 hours, it is best to seek medical treatment for them to find the root cause of the problem.
People of all ages should visit the ER as soon as diarrhea sets in if: they have recently traveled to a foreign country, experience stomach or rectum pain, have blood in their diarrhea, have been swimming in streams or lakes (these waters can contain parasites, such as giardia, that can occupy the intestines and cause diarrhea), and/or have recently adopted pets that carry the salmonella virus, such as turtles.
Finally, if your "gut instinct" makes you feel like your diarrhea is something serious or you simply need peace-of-mind that the health of you or your child is not declining due to the symptom, then both are good reasons to seek emergency medical treatment sooner rather than later.
Almost everyone gets a bout of diarrhea at least a time or two in their lives, and if you are like many people, you often wonder if you should seek emergency medical treatment when you experience it or just "wait it out" to see if it resolves on its own. Next time you or your child experience diarrhea, keep these factors in mind and, when in doubt, stay on the safe side and get treated sooner rather than later, such as at Van Wert County Hospital.