Diarrhea Quiz

By Sinovic, Dianna

What Do You Know About Diarrhea?

Anyone can get diarrhea. In fact, the typical American adult experiences diarrhea about four times a year, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Most cases of diarrhea, defined as loose, watery stools occurring more than three times in one day, last a day or two and need no treatment. Find out more about this common digestive problem by taking this quiz, based on information from the NIDDK and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

1. Which of these is a common cause of diarrhea?
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Bacteria that may contaminate food or water include campylobacter, salmonella, shigella, and E. coli, according to the NIDDK. Viruses that can cause diarrhea include rotavirus (especially in children), Norwalk virus (found in some shellfish), cytomegalovirus, and viral hepatitis. People who are lactose intolerant are not able to digest the sugar found in milk and frequently have diarrhea if they drink milk or other dairy products. Diarrhea also may be caused by parasites such as giardia lamblia, entamoeba histolytica, and cryptosporidium. Diarrhea also may be caused by medicines such as antibiotics and antacids that contain magnesium.
2. Which of these diseases is associated with chronic diarrhea?
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Celiac disease is a digestive disease caused by the body's abnormal response to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. In people with celiac disease, the gluten causes a loss of the villi, the finger-like projections in the intestine that absorb nutrients and fluids. This leads to chronic diarrhea, gas, and other gastrointestinal problems. Irritable bowel syndrome is a disorder that interferes with the function of the large intestine (colon). Diarrhea is one symptom of IBS; others include abdominal pain, bloating, and constipation.
3. Rotavirus is a common cause of diarrhea in children. Nearly all children have been infected by the virus by what age?
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Rotavirus infection causes severe diarrhea and leads to hospitalization for more than 55,000 children each year in the United States, according to the CDC. Many of the cases occur in the winter and early spring, and are common in day-care centers and children's hospitals. Rotavirus diarrhea usually resolves in three to eight days. Not all children infected with rotavirus have symptoms. A vaccine is available to protect children from rotavirus.
4. Besides watery stools, which of these symptoms also may occur during diarrhea?
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Acute diarrhea typically lasts only a few days to four weeks and usually is caused by a bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection. Chronic diarrhea is defined as diarrhea that lasts more than a month. It usually is a symptom of another condition such as celiac disease. According to the NIDDK, you should call your doctor if your diarrhea continues for more than three days; you have severe pain in your abdomen or rectum; you have a fever of at least 102 degrees F; you have blood in your stool or have black, tarry stools; or you have signs of dehydration.
5. If a child has diarrhea, when should you call the doctor?
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You should also call the doctor immediately if your child does not improve within 24 hours of developing diarrhea, or if the child's stools contain blood or pus, or if they are black. Diarrhea can be dangerous in infants and young children because of the danger of dehydration. You should not give your child antidiarrhea medication without checking with your doctor first; medications for adults may be dangerous when given to children.
6. Which of these fluids is best to drink to prevent dehydration when you have diarrhea?
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Although water is important in preventing dehydration, it doesn't contain electrolytes (sodium and potassium), according to the NIDDK. Broth or soups contain sodium, and fruit juices contain potassium. Soft fruits and vegetables also contain potassium. Avoid beverages that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea, and soda. For infants and children with more than mild diarrhea, a doctor usually recommends special beverages that contain electrolytes. These include Pedialyte, Ceralyte, and Infalyte.
7. Which of these foods is a good choice when you have diarrhea?
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It's best to eat soft, bland foods until your diarrhea goes away and avoid milk and milk products and foods that are greasy, high in fiber, or very sweet, according to the NIDDK. Children with diarrhea usually can continue to eat their normal diet, including milk, if the diarrhea is mild.
8. Traveler's diarrhea is caused when people visiting developing countries eat food or drink water that is contaminated. Which of these is a good tip to follow when traveling to places where food and water may be a problem?
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Other tips from the NIDDK include: Don't eat raw or rare meat or fish; don't eat meat or shellfish that is not hot when served; don't eat food from street vendors. Beverages that are safe to consume include bottled water that has been sealed, hot beverages such as coffee and tea, and carbonated soft drinks. You don't need to worry about traveler's diarrhea when visiting Canada, most European countries, Japan, Australia, or New Zealand.
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