Clinical Features of Diarrhea

What are the symptoms of diarrhea?

The main symptom of diarrhea is passing loose, watery stools three or more times a day.

People with diarrhea may also have one or more of the following symptoms:

People with diarrhea caused by some infections may also have one or more of the following symptoms:

Diarrhea may cause dehydration and malabsorption.

Source: NIDDK (NIH)1

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Back to: « Diarrhea

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Seek care right away

Diarrhea can become dangerous if it leads to severe dehydration. Diarrhea may also signal a more serious problem.


Adults with any of the following symptoms should see a doctor right away:

Older adults and adults with weakened immune systems or other health conditions who have diarrhea should also see a doctor right away.

Infants, Toddlers, and Young Children

The parent or caretaker of an infant, toddler, or young child with diarrhea and any of the following symptoms should seek a doctor’s care right away:

Source: NIDDK (NIH)2

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If you have diarrhea, you may lose your appetite for a short time. In most cases, when your appetite returns, you can go back to eating your normal diet.

Source: NIDDK (NIH)3

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Signs and Symptoms

Infections of the gut cause diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting and fever. Other symptoms typically include stomach cramps and headache. Vomiting usually settles quickly but diarrhoea may last for a week or more. When the cause is bacterial, the diarrhoea may contain blood and mucus.

Illness due to viruses and bacteria usually develops in one to three days after exposure to the organism. Diarrhoea due to parasites usually develops five to fifteen days after exposure to the organism.

Source: Queensland Health4

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Diarrhoea involves frequent, loose bowel motions ("poos’).

With some types of diarrhoea you might feel you have to get to the toilet urgently - and your bowel motion might be explosive.

Diarrhoea is usually mild and doesn’t last long - but it may be a symptom of a disease in your intestine or stomach.

Along with the diarrhoea, you might also have:

Source: New Zealand Health5

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Check if you have diarrhoea

Symptoms for adults and children include:

Source: NHS Choices UK6

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Diarrhoea is defined as 3 or more liquid or semi-liquid stools in a 24 hour period.

Source: GOV.UK7

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  1. Source: NIDDK (NIH): health-information/ digestive-diseases/ diarrhea/ all-content
  2. ibid.
  3. ibid.
  4. Source: Queensland Health: HealthCondition/ condition/ 14/ 33/ 39/ diarrhoea-in-young-children
  5. Source: New Zealand Health: your-health/ conditions-and-treatments/ diseases-and-illnesses/ diarrhoea
  6. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ Diarrhoea/ 
  7. Source: GOV.UK: government/ publications/ health-protection-in-schools-and-other-childcare-facilities/ chapter-9-managing-specific-infectious-diseases

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.