If a patient comes in and they’ve had one or two days of diarrhea, this could just be acute viral gastroenteritis or a food poisoning episode or acute diarrhea that will pass on its own. If the diarrhea continues for a prolonged period of time, it is usually at that point that we start doing tests to see if it’s something that needs to be treated. But most episodes of diarrhea that lasts within 24 hours and pass usually don’t need a full workup and can be thought of to be secondary to an acute insult that your body has cleared. Diarrhea is a very common disorder. It can mean that you have many different possible diagnoses from autoimmune diagnoses all the way to a run-of-the-mill viral infection. If your diarrhea lasts for more than 48 hours or if you have any alarm signs associated with your diarrhea such as weight loss, bleeding, or any worsening of your symptoms, you should definitely see a physician in order to get evaluated and find out the exact cause of your diarrhea and get the proper treatment. So if you do have diarrhea that has lasted more than 24 to 48 hours, if you’re having fevers, if there’s any evidence of any bleeding with your diarrhea, if there’s any cramping or significant abdominal pain, you definitely need to see a physician. And they are able to do stool samples, which means they’re able to take a collection of your stool and send it for analysis. And that will let you know what bacteria or parasite is involved in which antibiotic or antiparasitic will improve. If the diarrhea lasts for a longer period of time, such as more than three or four days, it’s at that point that you should definitely see a physician because you don’t want to wait until it’s become very severe and the patient is very dehydrated because then you can end up in a hospital setting.
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