Adult individuals with acute diarrhea who are otherwise healthy are not likely to develop dehydration. Lost fluids and electrolytes can be replaced with virtually any beverage plus a source of sodium chloride (salted crackers, etc.). Patients can rest the bowel by avoiding high-fiber foods, fats, milk and other dairy products, caffeine and alcohol.
Diarrhea is a common symptom that can range in severity from an acute, self-limited annoyance to a severe, life-threatening illness. The frequency and consistency of bowel move-ments vary within and between individuals.
Acute viral diarrheal illness often occurs in day care centers and nursing homes. As person-to-person contact is the mechanism by which viral disease spreads, isolation techniques must be initiated. For bacterial, parasite, and protozoal infections, strict food handling, sanitation, water, and other environmental hygiene practices can prevent transmission.
The term “diarrhea” originates from the Greek diarr, which means through, and rhein, which denotes flow. Although this descriptive term is appropriate for the symptoms, the word diarrhea may not have the same meaning for all patients and physicians.
Of special concern are infants and children and elderly or debilitated patients with diarrhea. These patient populations are at increased risk from complications from diarrhea, including dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.