When to see a doctor

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Most cases of acute diarrhea go away 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 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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Aug. 11, 2023

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