When to see a doctor

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Most cases of acute diarrhea resolve without treatment. However, severe diarrhea (greater than 10 bowel movements a day or diarrhea where fluid losses are significantly greater than oral intake) can cause dehydration, which can be life-threatening if untreated. Dehydration is particularly dangerous in children, older adults and those with weakened immune systems.

Seek medical attention for a child with these signs and symptoms:

  • Diarrhea that doesn't improve after 24 hours
  • No wet diaper in three or more hours
  • A fever of more than 102 F (39 C)
  • Bloody or black stools
  • A dry mouth or tongue or cries without tears
  • Unusually sleepy, drowsy, unresponsive or irritable
  • A sunken appearance to the abdomen, eyes or cheeks
  • Skin that doesn't flatten if pinched and released

Schedule a doctor's visit for an adult with these symptoms:

  • Diarrhea lasts more than two days without improvement
  • Excessive thirst, dry mouth or skin, little or no urination, severe weakness, dizziness or lightheadedness, or dark-colored urine, which could indicate dehydration
  • Severe abdominal or rectal pain
  • Bloody or black stools
  • A fever of more than 102 F (39 C)

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July 14, 2021

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  46. Early HIV symptoms: What are they?
  47. Ebola transmission: Can Ebola spread through the air?
  48. Ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis
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  51. Fecal incontinence
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  54. Food poisoning
  55. Gastroenteritis: First aid
  56. GI Stents
  57. Giardia infection (giardiasis)
  58. Graves' dermopathy: How is it treated?
  59. Graves' disease
  60. H1N1 flu (swine flu)
  61. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
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