Treatment

Most cases of diarrhea clear on their own within a couple of days without treatment. If you've tried lifestyle changes and home remedies for diarrhea without success, your doctor might recommend medications or other treatments.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics might help treat diarrhea caused by bacteria or parasites. If a virus is causing your diarrhea, antibiotics won't help.

Treatment to replace fluids

Your doctor likely will advise you to replace the fluids and salts. For most adults, that means drinking water, juice or broth. If drinking liquids upsets your stomach or causes diarrhea, your doctor might recommend getting fluids through a vein in your arm (intravenously).

Water is a good way to replace fluids, but it doesn't contain the salts and electrolytes — minerals such as sodium and potassium — you need to maintain the electric currents that keep your heart beating. You can help maintain your electrolyte levels by drinking fruit juices for potassium or eating soups for sodium. Certain fruit juices, such as apple juice, might make diarrhea worse.

For children, ask your doctor about using an oral rehydration solution, such as Pedialyte, to prevent dehydration or replace lost fluids.

Adjusting medications you're taking

If your doctor determines that an antibiotic caused your diarrhea, your doctor might lower your dose or switch to another medication.

Treating underlying conditions

If your diarrhea is caused by a more serious condition, such as inflammatory bowel disease, your doctor will work to control that condition. You might be referred to a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist, who can help devise a treatment plan for you.