Diarrhea can be unpleasant, but relief is easy to find. Visit your local pharmacy to try a non-prescription diarrhea reliever, such as:

  • bismuth subsalicylate
  • other products containing attapulgite or loperamide

When trying a non-prescription product, be sure the product is right for you. Always read and follow the label. Talk to your pharmacist if you have any questions.

Here are a few other ways to take care of yourself when you have diarrhea:

  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of clear fluids (avoid alcohol and caffeine) to replace the fluids you are losing. Try oral rehydration fluid, since you are losing a lot of electrolytes as well. This is especially important for children and seniors.
  • Wash your hands frequently – especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, or before touching your face.
  • Avoid foods that make your symptoms worse.

To reduce your risk of getting diarrhea again:

  • Keep track of which foods seem to cause your diarrhea. Some people are lactose intolerant, which means they can't digest lactose, a natural sugar found in dairy products. Lactose intolerance causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, gas, and bloating. Taking lactase enzyme with dairy products can help prevent diarrhea and other symptoms of lactose intolerance. Others have celiac disease, an allergic reaction to gluten (a protein found in grains), which causes diarrhea and weight loss. It can be managed by avoiding gluten in your diet.
  • Ask your pharmacist if any of your medications could be contributing to your diarrhea. Many medications, such as antibiotics, laxatives, orlistat, and antacids containing magnesium, have the side effect of diarrhea.
  • Avoid food poisoning by steering clear of unpasteurized milk and fruit juice, keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold, not leaving food at room temperature for more than 2 hours, washing your hands and cooking tools frequently when preparing food, separating cooked food from raw food, and cooking meats thoroughly.

Many cases of diarrhea are mild and can be treated at home with non-prescription products. But you should see your doctor if you:

  • have a fever
  • have bloody or black tarry stools (keep in mind that bismuth subsalicylate can cause dark stools)
  • have white, grey, or greasy stools
  • are dehydrated (symptoms include thirst, decreased urination, dark yellow urine, dry mouth or tongue, and feeling weak or lightheaded)
  • have had diarrhea for more than 3 days
  • are having more than 6 stools per day
  • are vomiting so much that it's hard to keep fluids down
  • have severe pain in your stomach or rectum
  • have recently started a medication that may cause diarrhea (see above)

These tips are intended for adults. Diarrhea can be much more serious for a baby or child because they are more likely to get dehydrated. If your baby or child has diarrhea, get medical advice.