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Medical Treatment for Diarrhea
To replace fluids, the health-care professional will often start an IV line if the patient is dehydrated and cannot eat or drink. Solutions administered through IV replace the lost fluids and electrolytes, and often brings quick relief to the patient.
Antibiotics will get rid of diarrhea caused by viruses. Even the more severe diarrhea caused by bacteria will usually go away in a few days without antibiotics. Antibiotics appear to make some bacterial diarrhea worse, specifically those caused by the E coli bacterium (often a source of food poisoning).
In some cases, antibiotics may benefit some adults with diarrhea. If selected carefully, antibiotics may decrease the severity of illness and shorten the duration of symptoms. If a person has recently traveled to another country or has been camping (and may have been exposed to contaminated water in the wilderness), a health-care professional may prescribe specific medication used to treat traveler's diarrhea for certain intestinal parasites.
Over-the-counter (OTC) antidiarrheal medications
The health-care professional may recommend using over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications. These drugs, such as loperamide (Imodium) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate, etc.) may help some individuals with diarrhea, but should be avoided by others. Antidiarrheal medications are not usually recommended for infants and children with diarrhea.
If a person has severe diarrhea, especially accompanied with dehydration, he or she may require hospitalization to receive IV fluids and to be observed.
The use of anti-motility medications, although controversial, may help get rid of diarrhea. These drugs slow down the intestinal movement and stop diarrhea symptoms. These medications include loperamide (Imodium) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate, etc).
Electrolyte solutions are available to prevent salt deficiency.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/5/2015
Bhupinder Anand, MD
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