Diagnosis

To diagnose antibiotic-associated diarrhea, your doctor is likely to question you about your health history, including whether you've had recent antibiotic treatments.

Treatment

Treatment for antibiotic-associated diarrhea depends on the severity of your signs and symptoms.

Treatments to cope with mild antibiotic-associated diarrhea

If you have mild diarrhea, your symptoms likely will clear up within a few days after your antibiotic treatment ends. In some cases your doctor may advise you to stop your antibiotic therapy until your diarrhea subsides.

Treatment to fight harmful bacteria in C. difficile infection

If you develop C. difficile infection, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria causing your antibiotic-associated diarrhea. For those with this type of infection, diarrhea symptoms may return and require repeated treatment.

Lifestyle and home remedies

To cope with diarrhea:

  • Drink enough fluids. To counter a mild loss of fluids from diarrhea, drink more water. For a more-severe loss, drink fluids that contain water, sugar and salt. Try broth or watered fruit juice. Avoid beverages that are high in sugar or contain alcohol or caffeine, such as coffee, tea and colas, which can worsen your symptoms.

    For infants and children with diarrhea, ask your doctor about using an oral rehydration solution, such as Pedialyte, to replenish fluids and electrolytes.

  • Choose soft, easy-to-digest foods. These include applesauce, bananas and rice. Avoid high-fiber foods such as beans, nuts and vegetables. Once your symptoms resolve, your can return to your normal diet.
  • Consider taking probiotics. Microorganisms such as acidophilus help restore a healthy balance to the intestinal tract by boosting the level of good bacteria. Probiotics are available in capsule or liquid form and are also added to some foods, such as certain brands of yogurt.

    Studies confirm that some probiotics might be helpful in treating antibiotic-associated diarrhea. However, further research is needed to better understand which strains of bacteria are most helpful or what doses are needed.

  • Ask about anti-diarrheal medications. In some cases of mild antibiotic-associated diarrhea, your doctor may recommend anti-diarrheal medications, such as loperamide (Imodium A-D). But check with your doctor before taking anti-diarrheal medications because they can interfere with your body's ability to eliminate toxins and lead to serious complications.

Preparing for your appointment

Make an appointment with the doctor who prescribed the antibiotic. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

Make a list of:

  • Your symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes, including if you've recently stayed in the hospital or a nursing home.
  • Medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking, including doses. If you've recently taken antibiotics, include the name, dosage and when you stopped taking it.
  • Questions to ask your doctor.

For antibiotic-associated diarrhea, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What tests do I need?
  • Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
  • What is the best course of action?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • Are there restrictions I should follow?
  • Are there foods and drinks I should avoid?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow more time to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did your symptoms begin?
  • Can you describe your bowel movements? How frequent are they?
  • Do you have a history of intestinal problems such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease or other inflammatory bowel disease?
  • Have you been around anyone with diarrhea recently?

What you can do in the meantime

Continue taking your antibiotics as directed by your doctor.

To cope with diarrhea until your appointment, you can:

  • Drink more water and other liquids to replace fluids lost because of diarrhea.
  • Eat soft, bland foods and avoid spicy or greasy foods that can aggravate diarrhea.