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What is diarrhea?

Diarrhea is a common symptom of a gastrointestinal disturbance. It is characterized by frequent loose stools and may be accompanied by abdominal pain, cramping, nausea, and fatigue. Sometimes there will be blood and/or mucus in the stool. Most adults experience several mild bouts of uncomplicated diarrhea each year, which are usually acute and self-limiting. However, severe acute diarrhea and chronic diarrhea can be dangerous, especially to very young children and the elderly. When diarrhea is severe or persists for several weeks, it can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, in which levels of electrolytes in the body become too high or too low and that can be life-threatening if untreated. Some of those affected by diarrhea may require hospitalization. In infants, significant dehydration can occur within a day or two.

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