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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  33. Cyclic vomiting syndrome
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  35. Cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection
  36. Diabetes insipidus
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  40. Diverticulitis
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  42. E. coli
  43. Ear infection (middle ear)
  44. Early HIV symptoms: What are they?
  45. Ebola transmission: Can Ebola spread through the air?
  46. Ebola virus and Marburg virus
  47. Ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis
  48. Endometriosis
  49. Endometriosis: Risk factor for ovarian cancer?
  50. Fecal incontinence
  51. Flu masks
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  53. Food poisoning
  54. Gastroenteritis: First aid
  55. GI Stents
  56. Giardia infection (giardiasis)
  57. Graves' dermopathy: How is it treated?
  58. Graves' disease
  59. H1N1 flu (swine flu)
  60. Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
  61. Hirschsprung's disease
  62. HIV/AIDS
  63. Hunter syndrome
  64. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  65. Infographic: Innovative Rectal Cancer Treatments
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  69. Irritable bowel syndrome
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  97. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
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  101. Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  102. Proctitis
  103. Pseudomembranous colitis
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