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When should I call my doctor if I have diarrhea?

Lawrence S. Friedman, MD
Gastroenterology
If your diarrhea lasts three days or more, it's time to call the doctor. However, call immediately if there is blood in the stool or if the stool looks like black tar. The same goes for diarrhea accompanied by a fever over 101 degrees F, severe abdominal or rectal pain, and severe dehydration (dry mouth, wrinkled skin, feeling faint, or lack of urination). Weight loss of more than 5 pounds is also a reason to see a doctor. Chronic diarrhea may be an indication of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and your doctor may want to evaluate you for that condition.
Call or go to the doctor or clinic for:
  • Diarrhea lasting 7 days or more in adults or children; diarrhea lasting more than 12 to 24 hours in babies
  • High fever or long-lasting fever
  • Throwing up and very bad pain in the abdomen
  • Unusual sleepiness or fussiness in babies
  • Bloody or black stool
  • For babies 3 months or younger, fewer than 4 to 6 wet diapers in a day. For older babies, no wet diapers in 8 hours.
  • Signs of too little fluid in the body: dry mouth, dry skin, no tears, or little or no urination (peeing). For children, no urination in the last 8 hours. For adults, no urination in the last 12 hours. For babies 3 months or less, fewer than 4 to 6 wet diapers in a day. For older babies, no wet diapers in 8 hours.
  • Recent use of antibiotic medicine
  • Constipation (trouble pooping) and diarrhea, one after the other
  • Diarrhea in a person more than 70 years old

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.