Loose, watery stools, or diarrhea, often lasts several days and requires more frequent trips to the bathroom. Causes of diarrhea include viruses, bacteria, medications, surgery and digestive disorders. The Cleveland Clinic states that most people suffer from diarrhea one to two times per year and the condition rarely becomes serious. Additional symptoms associated with loose stools are abdominal pain, fever, stomach cramps and bloating. MayoClinic.com advises patients to seek medical attention if diarrhea lasts more than three days, if stools turn bloody or black or severe pain is present.
MayoClinic.com suggests allowing the diarrhea to resolve itself, as it often lasts only a few days. A person should avoid eating dairy products, foods high in fat and spicy foods for several days. As bowel movements gradually return to normal form, adding semisolid and low-fiber foods to the diet is recommended. A person should gradually consume crackers, toast, rice and chicken until a regular diet becomes tolerable. Additional low-fiber foods include yogurt, ripe bananas, applesauce and smooth peanut butter.
If a person's rectal area is sore from the loose, watery stools, a sitz bath or soaking in the tub may help. Sitting in a few inches of warm water relieves itching and discomfort associated with diarrhea. A person should pat the area dry and not rub to avoid irritation. The Cleveland Clinic suggests applying petroleum jelly or hemorrhoid cream to the area to decrease discomfort.
When suffering from diarrhea, the body may become severely dehydrated. The person should carry a water bottle and sip water throughout the day. Cleveland Clinic advises patients suffering from diarrhea to drink two to three quarts of water a day. Besides water, pulp-free juices, broths and caffeine-free soda are encouraged. The Cleveland Clinic also suggests drinking sports drinks, tea and fat-free chicken broth.
Over-the-counter medications to treat diarrhea are available in liquid and tablet form. Common medications include bismuth subsalicylate, commonly sold as Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate, as well as loperamide The Cleveland Clinic suggests a dosage of 2 tbsp. of bismuth subsalicylate after each bowel movement. Loperamide is recommended if bismuth subsalicylate does not effect diarrhea after 12 hours. Occasionally antibiotics are prescribed if a bacterial or parasite infection occurs; antibiotics will not cure a viral infection.
Some medications will cause diarrhea as a side effect. A person should examine all medications taken over-the-counter and by prescription. A medical doctor may lower a medication dose or change medications to stop the diarrhea.