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Defining diarrhoea

Defining diarrhoea

Customers with diarrhoea may describe having a tummy bug, food poisoning or traveller's diarrhoea. Lifestyle pressures, infection or medical conditions can all be triggers of diarrhoea,3 which can be a real inconvenience for your customers, interfering with their daily activities or leading to dehydration.

Diarrhoea can be defined as acute, persistent or chronic. Customers with persistent/chronic diarrhoea should be referred to their GP.

Acute
Lasts less than 14 days1
Usually comes on suddenly, and clears within 5-10 days3
Persistent
Lasts for longer than 14 days1
Chronic
Lasts more than 4 weeks1
Continuous/prolonged diarrhoea

Causes of acute diarrhoea include:1,3

  • Viral infection, e.g. norovirus. This is the most common infectious cause
  • Bacterial infection, e.g. salmonella or E.coli food poisoning. Clostridium difficile can cause diarrhoea in those who have taken antibiotics
  • Parasitic infection e.g. from the protozoa Giardia or Cryptosporidium. Giardiasis, for example, can be transmitted though untreated drinking water or through contaminated surfaces. Parasitic causes can result in persistent diarrhoea
  • Medications such as magnesium-containing antacids, allopurinol, metformin, NSAIDs and proton pump inhibitors
  • Anxiety, which can cause the bowel contents to move too rapidly through the gut
  • Food intolerance (particularly lactose intolerance) or foods containing artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol
  • Other medical conditions such as IBS, coeliac disease or an overactive thyroid
  • Local food hygiene and sanitation when travelling