Several types of diarrhea treatment are available, depending on the severity of the condition. In many cases, a person can treat diarrhea at home or may recover without any treatment at all. Drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding fatty or spicy foods can be helpful. More severe cases may require antibiotics or prescription anti-diarrheal medications or intravenous fluids. Other types of diarrhea treatment include over-the-counter medicines such as bismuth subsalicylate, loperamide, and absorbents.
Typically, diarrhea treatment involves getting enough fluids to prevent dehydration and eating certain foods to avoid exacerbating the condition. Water, juice, and regular soda are all suitable drinks for preventing dehydration. A drink with extra electrolytes may be especially useful for treating diarrhea in younger children. Some beverages, such as milk, alcoholic drinks, and drinks with caffeine, may make symptoms worse and should be avoided.
When a person has diarrhea, it is recommended that he try to eat bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, which is known as the BRAT diet. Rice and toast are low in fiber and can help bind and firm a person's stools. Bananas contain potassium, an important electrolyte. While the BRAT diet is usually an effective diarrhea treatment, if someone is also vomiting, he should avoid eating until the vomiting stops.
A person may also wish to take over-the-counter medicines to treat diarrhea. Medicine such as loperamide relax the small intestine and colon muscles, reducing the speed at which food particles move through the digestive tract and helping the body absorb more water from the stool before it leaves the body. Loperamide should only be used by people more than age two and shouldn't be used to treat diarrhea caused by C. difficile colitis or by certain other bacteria.
Other over-the-counter types of diarrhea treatment absorb water from the stools. There are generally two types of absorbents available over the counter, polycarbophil and attapulgite. Absorbents may cause bloating and constipation and can interact with other medicines, as they prevent the medicine from being absorbed into the body.
Bismuth subsalicylate can also treat diarrhea, though it should not be taken by people who are allergic to aspirin, because it contains aspirin. It should also not be given to children less than age two or to children who currently have chickenpox. Bismuth can effectively treat diarrhea caused by bacteria as well.
Severe cases of diarrhea may require hospitalization or a prescription medicine. Someone who cannot keep any food or liquid down requires intravenous fluids. Diarrhea caused by bacteria or a parasite, such as traveler's diarrhea, can be treated with antibiotics.