Should I Be Concerned About Runny Poop?

Reviewed on 8/31/2022

A man staring at a toilet while holding a full roll of toilet paper
Runny poop (loose stools or diarrhea) usually isn't a serious problem, but it should be checked by a doctor to determine the cause.

Runny poop (loose stools or diarrhea) typically isn't a cause for concern. It may be caused by eating certain foods, taking certain medications, infections, and digestive problems.

It is important to see a doctor for a diagnosis of the cause of runny poop in order to determine if medical treatment is needed. 

See a doctor if you have runny poop and:

  • It lasts more than two days
  • Dehydration
    • Thirst
    • Urinating less than usual
    • Dark-colored urine
    • Dry mouth
    • Tiredness 
    • Decreased skin turgor
    • Lightheadedness or fainting
    • Sunken eyes or cheeks
  • Malabsorption
  • Inability to keep food or water down
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Blood in stool
  • A fever of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher

What Are Symptoms of Runny Poop?

Runny poop (diarrhea) is a symptom of many different conditions. Signs of runny poop may include: 

  • Loss of control of bowel movements 
  • Urgent need to use the bathroom
  • Abdominal cramps/pain

Symptoms that may accompany runny poop include: 

What Causes Runny Poop?

There are many possible causes of runny poop (diarrhea), including:

How Is Runny Poop Diagnosed?

Runny poop (diarrhea) is diagnosed with a patient history and a physical examination. Tests used to help determine the cause of runny poop may include: 

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What Is the Treatment for Runny Poop?

Treatment for runny poop (diarrhea) depends on the cause. Dietary changes and home remedies are usually sufficient and runny poop will go away on its own with rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and a bland diet

Foods that are easy-to-digest and binding may help stop runny poop, such as: 

  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Crackers
  • Bananas
  • Oatmeal
  • Potatoes

Other home remedies for runny poop include:

  • Drink plenty of fluids
    • Liquids with sugar and salt, such as juice and broth, are the best choices
  • Eat salty foods to help prevent dehydration
  • Take over-the-counter (OTC) anti-diarrheal medicines
  • Take probiotics
  • Increase fiber intake
  • Avoid food and drinks that are triggers such as milk or eggs

When medical treatment is needed for runny poop, it may include: 

  • Prescription anti-diarrheal medications
  • Antibiotics, if runny poop is caused by certain bacterial infections
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids to treat and prevent dehydration
  • Treating any underlying medical condition 
  • Stopping or changing medications 
    • Do not stop or change any medications without first talking to your doctor

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Reviewed on 8/31/2022
References
REFERENCES:

Image source: iStock Images

https://www.houstonmethodist.org/blog/articles/2022/jul/when-to-see-a-doctor-for-diarrhea/

https://iffgd.org/lower-gi-disorders/diarrhea/common-causes.htm

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/diarrhea-in-adolescents-and-adults-the-basics?search=diarrhea&source=search_result&selectedTitle=4~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=4

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/diarrhea.html

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diarrhea