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Acute diarrhea is usually caused by a viral bacterial, or parasitic infection. Chronic diarrhea is usually related to a functional disorder such as irritable bowel syndrome or an intestinal disease such as Crohn’s disease. 12

The most common causes of diarrhea include the following: 12

  • Bacterial infections
  • Viral infections
  • Parasites
  • Functional bowel disorders
  • Intestinal diseases
  • Food intolerances and sensitivities
  • Reaction to medicines

People who visit certain foreign countries are at risk for traveler’s diarrhea, which is caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites12.

Parents or caregivers of children suffering from the following symptoms, should see a health care provider:12

  • signs of dehydration
    - dry mouth and tongue
    - no tears when crying
    - no wet diapers for 3 hours or more
    - sunken eyes, cheeks, or soft spot in the skull
    - high fever
    - listlessness or irritability
  • diarrhea for more than 24 hours
  • a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit / 38.9 degrees Celcius or higher
  • stools containing blood or pus

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  1. Information from Your Family Doctor. Constipation. American Family Physician 2010; 82 (12): 1440-1441.
  2. Irritable Bowel Information & Support Association of Australia: Welcome. Available at: www.ibis-australia.org/index.htm. Last accessed on: 15.6.2016.
  3. A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (NIH). Medline plus. Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Last update: 3.3.2014. Available at: www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/irritablebowelsyndrome.html.
  4. Gastroenterological society of Australia: Irritable Bowel Syndrome 2nd Edition 2003. Available at: http://membes.gesa.org.au/membes/files/Clinical Guidelines and Updates/IBS_2nd_Edition.pdf 
  5. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institutes of Health (NIH): Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Available at:digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/ibs/. 
  6. American Gastroenterological Association: IBS: A Patient's Guide to Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Available at: www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome.
  7. The British Dietetic Association: Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Diet. Available at: https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/ibsfoodfacts.pdf. (2013)
  8. American Gastroenterological association: IBS: A Patient's Guide to Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Available at: www.gastro.org/patient-center/IBS_Brochure_Online.pdf. 
  9. International foundation of functional gastrointestinal disorders: Working with Your Physician. Available at: www.aboutibs.org/site/treatment/working-with-your-physician/ 
  10. The National Pancreas Foundation:  EXOCRINE PANCREATIC INSUFFICIENCY (EPI) available at https://www.pancreasfoundation.org/patient-information/ailments-pancreas/exocrine-pancreatic-insufficiency/ 
  11. Indigestion. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/indigestion/Documents/Indigestion_508.pdf 
  12. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diarrhea. January 2011. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/diarrhea/Documents/Diarrhea_508.pdf.
  13. An et al. Integrative Review of Co-Occurring Symptoms Across Etiologies of Chronic Liver Disease and Implications for Symptom Management Research and Practice. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 2015; 47:4, 310–317.
  14. Valery P C et al. Systematic review: unmet supportive care needs in people diagnosed with the chronic liver disease. BMJ Open 2015;5: e007451. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-007451

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