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When Is Diarrhea Cause for Concern?

Diarrhea is a common problem, and everyone experiences it. It’s characterized by runny, watery stool, sometimes accompanied by flatulence, abdominal pain, vomiting, or nausea. For most, diarrhea goes away within a few days. 

If you have diarrhea for more than a few days, it could indicate another problem, like an infection.

Our experts at Houston Medical ER in Houston and Spring, Texas, diagnose and treat diarrhea to provide fast relief. You receive prompt care, including medical evaluations, on-site lab work, and treatments to help you recover quickly. 

Our highly skilled team treats patients of all ages with short wait times in our urgent care facility.

What causes diarrhea?

Diarrhea is a symptom of an underlying cause. It presents with varying degrees of intensity and at different intervals. 


An infection is one of the most common reasons for diarrhea. Viruses and bacteria cause inflammation of the mucous membrane in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This inflammation, also called gastroenteritis, then leads to diarrhea. 

Viruses that can cause diarrhea include cholera, norovirus, rotavirus, and salmonella. Spoiled food can also cause an infection. The bacteria it contains produces toxins that can lead to diarrhea.


Another common cause of diarrhea is a food intolerance. Lactose intolerance is a well-known culprit that causes diarrhea. If you can’t digest the lactose in milk, you can experience gas, bloating, and diarrhea after consuming dairy products. 


Almost all medications have some side effects, and many can cause diarrhea. Laxatives may relieve constipation, but taking too much can cause persistent diarrhea. Antibiotics cause diarrhea because they kill good gut bacteria as they destroy harmful bacteria in the intestine.

Many other drugs may cause diarrhea, such as chemotherapy drugs, medications used to treat heartburn, or medicine that suppresses the immune system. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen can also cause diarrhea. 

When should I visit an ER for diarrhea?

Acute diarrhea comes on suddenly and doesn’t last longer than three days. Most of the time, diarrhea goes away on its own. If you have diarrhea, keep your body hydrated to avoid dehydration.

Chronic diarrhea poses a health risk. If diarrhea persists for a longer period, you have a fever or severe circulatory problems, or there’s blood in your stool, please visit us Houston Medical ER to clarify the cause.

Diarrhea can quickly become fatal, so it’s essential to know when to seek medical care. It can deprive your body of over three liters of fluid and salts per day. 

Babies, small children, the elderly, and those already ill are particularly at risk. Diarrhea in an infant can become life-threatening in less than 24 hours due to vomiting and dehydration.

For questions or concerns, visit us at one of our emergency rooms in Houston and Spring, Texas. No appointment is necessary at Houston Medical ER, so you can call or walk in at any time.

For any medical procedure, patients respond to treatment differently, hence each patient's results may vary.
**In case of a life threatening emergency, immediately call 911.
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