Diarrhea is generally defined as passage of large, frequent (4 – 8 episodes generally) and loose (watery) stools. However, some people may have more than 3 bowel motions in a day with loose consistency normally. Therefore, a change from normal pattern is more important.
In adults, normal bowel frequency may range from 3 times a week to 3 times a day. Normally the stool weighs less than 200 gm/d and contains 60- 80% of water. An increase in the weight of the stool above 200 gm, with increase in the liquidity and frequency of passing the stools is diarrhea.
Diarrhea can occur in all age groups. Generally in a year, a child below 3 years of age, is 3 times at more risk of developing diarrhea than an adult.
Commonly diarrhea, dysentery and food poisoning are confused with each other.
- Dysentery can be defined as diarrhea in which the stools contains blood and/or mucus (thick, whitish sticky material). It frequently occurs in epidemic form (i.e. large number of people get affected at the same time). It is commonly caused by a bacteria known as Shigella.
- Food Poisoning
o It occurs as a result of consuming germ contaminated food.
o Food items that are commonly associated with food poisoning are raw or undercooked foods from animal sources e.g. meat, milk, eggs, cheese and fish.
o Vegetables can also get contaminated during processing by unhygienic handlers (people who act as carrier of the germs).
o Symptoms include abdominal discomfort, vomiting and diarrhea.
o In some cases, there can be bloody diarrhea, dehydration and even death in serious cases.