Treatment for Infectious Diarrhea

Infectious diarrhea is caused by a contagious virus or bacteria as opposed to a symptomatic response to parasites or spoiled food. Like any infection, these are spread by contact with contaminated food or water, pets and fecal matter transferred from diapers or toilets to surfaces that people touch. Washing hands thoroughly and frequently is the best prevention.

  • Runny or watery stool
  • Dehydration, loss of appetite
  • Increased urgency, volume and frequency of bowel movements
  • Rectal irritation from watery stool
  • Chills and fever


Who is at risk?

Children are often at greater risk when they use public restrooms and frequent environments with many other children. Travelers to third world countries are also at risk because of the differences in hygiene sometimes found there.


Viral contagion is typically self limited and will eventually correct itself. Diarrhea caused by some bacteria will benefit from antibiotic treatment. The key to dealing with diarrhea is to stay hydrated.

Emergency Warning Signs: When should I see a doctor?

Consult a physician for emergency care with a fever of 102° F or higher, severe abdominal pain with vomiting or refusal to take fluids. If there is blood in the mucus or stool, get emergency help. In general, consult a doctor if signs of dehydration become apparent after 12 hours, such as dry mouth, lack of urine, lethargy or dizziness.

For more information on infectious diarrhea, see the following websites:

Disclaimer: The links above are to sites independent of The pages will open in a new browser window. The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your doctor. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding your specific medical questions, treatments, therapies, and other needs.