Untreated diarrhoea can have serious implications, such as dehydration. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), diarrhoea is the second leading cause of death in children under 5 years old. Statistics South Africa attributes approximately 20% of under-five year old deaths to diarrhoea. But what is diarrhoea and why is it so dangerous? Here are the 3 Ds of diarrhoea – Disease, Dehydration and Drugs.
Diarrhoea can be defined as the passage of three or more loose or watery stools per day and is often a symptom of an infection in the intestinal tract, which can be caused by a variety of bacterial, viral and parasitic organisms. This infection causes an imbalance between the absorption and secretion in the gut causing more water to be lost than absorbed, leading to watery stools and dehydration.
There are various causes of diarrhoea. Some of the most common causes include:
- Viral infections: Viruses such as norovirus, rotavirus, and adenovirus are the most common causes of diarrhoea. These viruses spread through contaminated food, water or close contact with infected individuals.
- Bacterial infections: Bacteria like Escherichia coli ( coli), Salmonella, and Campylobacter can lead to infectious diarrhoea. Contaminated food, improperly prepared meals or poor hygiene practices can also contribute to bacterial infections.
- Parasitic infections: Parasites like Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium are also known to cause diarrhoea, especially in regions with inadequate sanitation and contaminated water sources.
Diarrhoeal infections can be spread through contaminated food or drinking water or from person-to-person, and can cause a host of symptoms. While the main symptom of diarrhoea is more frequent bowel movements of watery stools, it can be accompanied by various other symptoms, such as:
Some of the symptoms of diarrhoea include:
- Frequent, loose and watery stools
- Abdominal cramps
- Blood in the stool
- Mucus in the stool
- Symptoms of dehydration, such as thirst, weakness, dizziness, fatigue and a dry mouth
The severity of these symptoms differs from person to person, however if diarrhoea goes untreated for an extended period of time, it can lead to dehydration and can have dire consequences.
One of the big dangers of diarrhoea is that it can cause severe dehydration, which can be life-threatening if it is not monitored and treated. When a person has diarrhoea, they lose water and essential electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium and bicarbonate) that help maintain the fluid balance in the body. Dehydration therefore keeps the body from functioning optimally.
If left unchecked dehydration can lead to heat stroke, seizures and hypovolemic shock (a condition where the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood to the rest of the body because of the low blood volume due to fluid loss). Severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention especially in young children where diarrhoea can quickly become life threatening.
In most cases, diarrhoea and the symptoms associated with it will go away after a few days. Drinking water with electrolytes, juice or broth will help to prevent dehydration. There are also certain treatments available that can provide fast and effective relief from diarrhoea like Tasectan. Tasectan is a clinically proven, safe and effective diarrhoea treatment for all ages and stages of your life. This treatment works by forming a thin biofilm across the inflamed areas of the gut lining. This thin biofilm prevents water loss into the intestine and protects the gut wall from further harm by the germs and bacteria causing diarrhoea and inflammation. It is not absorbed into the body and is very safe. Find out more about Tasectan.