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Diarrhoea in adults and older children is unpleasant but rarely dangerous. It may be caused by eating contaminated food with bacteria or viruses. For example, food which has not been properly cooked, of has been kept uncovered for some time. It may also be caused by a sudden change in diet, or drinking too much alcohol. Diarrhoea usually begins to get better within 48 hours. You can help yourself to get better more quickly:

Do not eat, or eat only very small amounts of plain food (toast or plain biscuits) for 24-48 hours.
Drink plenty of clear fluids until your stomach has settled. It is important to drink enough to replace the fluid you are loosing down the toilet! Clear fluids mean water, squash or herbal teas. Milk, tea and coffee make the diarrhoea worse so avoid them until you are better.

When to see your doctor...

Babies with sudden bouts of watery diarrhoea which lasts 24 hours or more, or which is associated with vomiting, fever or drowsiness should be taken to see the doctor urgently.

Anyone with bloody diarrhoea should consult their doctor in the next few days.

If the diarrhoea is accompanied by sever stomach pains not relieved by going to the toilet, or if the patient is unable to keep fluids down because of severe vomiting, the doctor should be consulted.

The elderly who experience repeated attacks of diarrhoea should see their doctor.

People returning from exotic foreign countries should get along to their doctor.