Definition of Acute Diarrhea
Diarrhea means having more than three loose bowel movements a day.
Acute (Lat. acutus = sharp, pointed) diarrhea, by definition, lasts less than 3 weeks (1).
Causes of Acute Diarrhea
A) Acute INFECTIOUS Diarrhea
- Bacterial diarrhea usually occurs in food poisoning due to infection with bacteria, like E. coli or Salmonella.
- Parasitic diarrhea may be due to intestinal worms, or one-cell parasites like Entamoeba hystolytica, or Giardia.
- Viral diarrhea mainly affects small children in kinder-gartens due to stool-to-mouth infection from other children, or (in poor countries) due to infection by water, contaminated by rotavirus.
B) Acute NON-INFECTIOUS Diarrhea
- Food allergies may affect children or adults. Main causes are wheat, eggs, cow milk, soy, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree-nuts, but can be virtually any food.
- Fish poisoning. Both ciguatera poisoning by big tropical fish like barracuda or meckerel, and scombroid poisoning by non-properly stored fish are common.
- Psychological stress may cause sudden diarrhea.
- Antibiotic-associated diarrhea may occur few days or several weeks after start of treatment with antibiotics by mouth.
- Medications like laxatives or magnesium antacids stimulate bowel motility.
- Chemotherapy and irradiation damage cells in intestinal lining.
- Mushrooms (even non-poisonous), and poisonous plants like foxglove or oleander may cause severe diarrhea.
- Pesticides, ingested or inhaled may cause severe diarrhea.
- Ingestion of heavy metals, like arsenic or mercury may cause severe diarrhea.
- Runner’s diarrhea often affects long-distance runners.
- Diarrhea may occur in women before child-birth.