Diarrhoea is the passing of frequent, loose bowel motions. This results in aloss of large amounts of fluids and salts. Diarrhoea is a symptom, rather than an actual specific illness. Most cases of diarrhoea will be mild and self-limiting but particular care is needed for cases of diarrhoea in the very young and the very old. Infants and the elderly are especially at risk of becoming dehydrated.

It can be caused by a number of things and can be acute or chronic. Acute diarrhoea comes on quickly and produces watery stools which are passed frequently. It usually only last a few days and can be associated with abdominal cramps, flatulence and weakness. Chronic diarrhoea lasts longer than 2 weeks and needs to be investigated by a doctor to rule out a serious underlying cause.

Most causes of diarrhoea are short-lived and in these situations the cause is likely to be infective i.e. viral, bacterial (E. coli or Salmonella) or parasitic, from eating infected food (food poisoning) or by drinking contaminated water (traveller's diarrhoea). Other causes of acute diarrhoea include emotional upset or anxiety or drinking too much alcohol or coffee, certain medicines (e.g. antibiotics) and some sugar-free foods.

Chronic diarrhoea may be caused by bowel conditions such as Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, lactose intolerance, food allergies and coeliac disease. Chronic diarrhoea lasting longer than 2 weeks should always be referred to a doctor.
Symptoms range from mild to severe depending on the cause. Common symptoms include watery stools, cramping, nausea or vomiting, fever, headache, loss of appetite, dehydration and weight loss.

Oral Rehydration Sachets

There is a great risk of dehydration with diarrhoea, and rehydration therapy is considered the standard treatment to help maintain fluid and salt intake. Specially formulated sachets provide a balanced mixture of salts which should be diluted with water as per the manufacturer's instructions and sipped slowly.


This is a fast and effective anti-diarrhoeal treatment. It slows gut motility and provides effective relief from the symptoms of diarrhoea within one hour. It is suitable for use in adults and older children.


This has an anti-flatulent action. It is often used in anti-diarrhoeal medicines to treat the symptoms of stomach cramps and bloating associated with excess air trapped in the gut.
Visit your pharmacist or doctor:
  • Patients with severe diarrhoea – lasting more than 48 hours.
  • If the problem is recurring.
  • Pregnant women.
  • If the patient is a baby or young infant.
  • If the patient is frail or elderly.
  • If there is blood or mucus in the stools.
  • If the patient has just returned from a holiday abroad.
  • If the patient is on antibiotics.
  • If the patient has also has a fever.
  • If the patient is on any medication.
Helpful Tips from Mulligans Pharmacy:
  • At Mulligans Pharmacy, we understand that our customers may need treatment for symptoms of a personal or sensitive nature. Our pharmacists are always available for a discreet chat in our private consultation room at your request, or you can ask a Mulligans Pharmacist a question in confidence here.
  • Drink plenty of clear, non-milky fluids such as water and diluted squash.
  • It is ok to eat provided it doesn't aggravate the cramps or diarrhoea too much. Soft starchy food such as bread, pasta rice, potatoes, and toast are easy to digest.
  • Avoid dairy products, caffeine and fresh fruit, alcohol, fatty and spicy foods.
  • Infection can be spread by physical contact so good hygiene practices are important – hands must always be washed with soap and water before preparing food and after using the toilet.
  • Diarrhoea may affect the absorption of other drugs from the intestine. Patients taking other medication should speak to their pharmacist.
  • Sucking ice pops may be a good option for children that are too nauseated to drink.
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The information provided is intended solely as a guide. Please seek the advice of your pharmacist to determine whether a particular service, medication, or treatment programme will be of value to you. Always check the dosage directions carefully on all medicines. Never combine medicines without consulting your doctor or pharmacist. All health facts and information contained herein should not be a substitute for medical advice. The use of this site is subject to our Terms & Conditions.
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