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Diarrhea Medical Treatment
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 are not effective in 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 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.
Bhupinder Anand, MD
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