If you or your child needs to see a doctor, you'll likely see your primary care provider first. If there are questions about the diagnosis, your doctor may refer you to an infectious disease specialist.
What you can do
Preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time with your doctor. Some questions to ask include:
- What's the likely cause of the symptoms? Are there other possible causes?
- Is there a need for tests?
- What's the best treatment approach? Are there alternatives?
- Is there a need for medication? If yes, is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- How can I ease the symptoms?
What to expect from your doctor
Some questions the doctor may ask include:
- Has anyone in your family or otherwise close to you developed similar symptoms? If so, did you eat the same things?
- Have you traveled anywhere where the water or food might not be safe?
- Are you having bloody bowel movements?
- Do you have a fever?
- Had you taken antibiotics in the days or weeks before your symptoms started?
- When did symptoms begin?
- Have the symptoms been continuous, or do they come and go?
- What foods have you eaten in the past few days?
What you can do in the meantime
Drink plenty of fluids. Stick with bland foods to reduce stress on your digestive system. If your child is sick, follow the same approach — offer plenty of fluids and bland food. If you're breast-feeding or using formula, continue to feed your child as usual.
Ask your child's doctor if giving your child an oral rehydration fluid (Pedialyte, Enfalyte, others) is appropriate. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems might also benefit from oral rehydration solutions. Medications that help ease diarrhea generally aren't recommended for children.
July 24, 2014
- Foodborne illness, foodborne disease, (sometimes called "food poisoning"). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/facts.html. Accessed April 16, 2014.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. Diagnosis and management of foodborne illnesses: A primer for physicians and other health care professionals. MMWR. 2004;53:1. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5304a1.htm. Accessed April 16, 2014.
- Acheson DWK. Patient information: Food-poisoning (foodborne illness). http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 17, 2014.
- Foodborne illness. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. http://www.digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/bacteria/index.aspx. Accessed April 16, 2014.
- The big thaw — Safe defrosting methods for consumers. Food Safety and Inspection Service. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/the-big-thaw-safe-defrosting-methods-for-consumers/CT_Index. Accessed April 17, 2014.
- Wanke CA. Approach to the adult with acute diarrhea in developed countries. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 17, 2014.