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Doctors are available via text whenever you need them—no appointment or insurance necessary. They can prescribe any necessary antibiotics—all by phone.
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Available in all 48 continental US states. Not available in Alaska or Hawaii.
K Health memberships are not insurance and exclude ancillary services (e.g., labs, equipment, cost of medication, etc). See Terms of Service.
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What is diarrhea?
Diarrhea is defined as having three or more loose, watery stools per day. It’s often accompanied by cramping, abdominal pain, urgency, bloating, and gas. Diarrhea can be acute—meaning it comes on suddenly and lasts for a short time—or chronic, which persists for weeks or even months.
Types of diarrhea
There are several ways to describe the different types of diarrhea according to the length of time you experience symptoms and the consistency of your bowel movements.
- Acute diarrhea: This describes diarrhea that lasts less than two weeks.
- Chronic diarrhea: This describes diarrhea that lasts longer than four weeks.
You can also describe diarrhea by its consistency and appearance:
Causes of acute diarrhea
Typically, acute diarrhea goes away on its own within four days. The most common causes of acute diarrhea are often different than the most common causes of chronic diarrhea.The most common causes of acute diarrhea include infections, travelers’ diarrhea, and side effects of medications. Some infections can be foodborne, meaning that they enter your digestive tract through something you eat or drink. Infections that cause diarrhea may include:
- Viral infections: Viruses such as norovirus and rotavirusare common causes of diarrhea.
- Bacterial infections: Bacteria may enter your body through contaminated food or water and cause diarrhea. Common bacterial infections include campylobacter, escherichia coli (E. coli), salmonella, and shigella.
- Parasitic infections: Parasites can also enter your body through something you eat or through contaminated water. Common parasitic infections include cryptosporidium enteritis, entamoeba histolytica, and giardia lamblia.
Traveler’s diarrhea happens when you eat food or drink water contaminated with a bacteria, virus, or parasite. This is more common when traveling to a developing country. This type of diarrhea typically lasts a few days.
Several medications may also cause diarrhea, including:
- Medications containing magnesium
- Cancer medications
Causes of chronic diarrhea
Several infections, food allergies, intolerances, digestive conditions or surgeries, and medications can cause chronic diarrhea.
Common food allergies or intolerances that may cause chronic diarrhea include:
- Cow’s milk
- Cereal grains
- Lactose intolerance
- Fructose intolerance
- Sugar alcohol intolerance
Digestive tract conditions that may cause chronic diarrhea include:
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome and other functional GI disorders
- Ulcerative colitis
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
People who have had abdominal surgery in the past sometimes develop chronic diarrhea, including surgeries involving the:
- Large intestine
- Small intestine
Some medications may cause chronic diarrhea as a side effect when taken long-term. Taking antibiotics to treat bacterial infections of any kind can alter your normal gut bacteria and allow Clostridium difficile (C. diff) to grow. This bacteria can cause diarrhea and other complications.
Stress is another factor that sometimes causes diarrhea.
Symptoms of diarrhea
If you have diarrhea, you may have an urgent need to use the restroom. You may also experience the following:
- Abdominal cramping or pain
- Intestinal gas
- Loss of bowel control
If you have an infection causing diarrhea, you may also have symptoms such as:
- Blood in your stools
- Fever and chills
- Feeling light-headed or dizzy
How is diarrhea treated?
To figure out which treatment is best for you, your medical provider will ask you about your recent symptoms. They may question you about the frequency of your bowel movements, how long you’ve been experiencing diarrhea, and the color and consistency of your stools. They’ll also want to know about recent travel, contact with other sick people, and the types of medications you take.
Depending on the suspected cause, your provider may suggest treatment with over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help stop diarrhea. If they think you have an infection, they may order an antibiotic or medication that targets a parasite infection.
For gastrointestinal disorders, some treatments may help stop your diarrhea.
Sometimes, experts suggest probiotics to restore a healthy bacteria balance in your gut.
To treat dehydration caused by diarrhea, drink plenty of fluids and electrolytes. Water is essential, but you should also include other liquids like broth, fruit juices, and sports drinks. These liquids are vital for young children as they contain electrolytes and glucose—a sugar that helps the body absorb and retain fluid.
If you have severe diarrhea and cannot keep liquids down, or if your stool contains blood, you should go to the hospital as you may need intravenous (IV) fluids. People with a weakened immune system are also at risk for more severe problems from diarrhea and should seek medical attention immediately.
What medication treats diarrhea?
OTC anti-motility medications can help stop diarrhea. However, they can be dangerous for children and aren’t recommended for people experiencing bloody stool or signs of infection such as fever. OTC anti-motility medications include loperamide (Imodium) and bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate).
Antibiotics may help with certain infections. Your doctor will order an antibiotic prescription if it is needed. Sometimes, laboratory testing of the stool is needed prior to treatment.
Complications of diarrhea
Diarrhea can cause dehydration and malabsorption, which can be serious.
Symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dry mouth
- Urinating less often than usual
- Dark colored urine
- Feeling tired
- Decreased skin elasticity
- Feeling light-headed or dizzy
- Sunken eyes or cheeks
- No tears when crying
- A sunken soft spot on the skull of infants
Chronic diarrhea lasting for a few days or longer may cause malabsorption. Symptoms of malabsorption include:
- Stomach bloating
- Changes in appetite
- Having extra gas
- Passing loose, greasy, or foul-smelling stools
- Weight loss
- Poor weight gain in infants
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Frequently asked questions
What's included in the K Health membership?
Our K Health membership includes nearly everything K Health offers for $29/month*.
- Unlimited text-based visits with licensed clinicians
- Flexible appointments for Primary Care and 24/7 Urgent Care
- Remote annual wellness visits
- Chronic condition management and prevention
- Free Urgent Care for your kids ages 3-17
- Easy prescription management and renewals
- As always, no insurance needed, all on your own schedule
*24/7 Urgent Care is available in 48 states of the US. Not available in Alaska or Hawaii. Pediatrics is only available in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Children ages 3-17 must have parental consent.
K Health memberships are not insurance and do not include any ancillary services, (e.g.) laboratory tests, durable medical equipment, appointments with other providers or specialists that we may refer you to, emergency or in-person urgent care facility visits; cost of medication and other referrals. See Terms of Service.
Are there any conditions that K Health does not treat?
K Health-affiliated clinicians can diagnose and treat most things you might see an in-person primary care doctor for. However, there are sometimes instances when we recommend you see a doctor in person.
For example, ear infections and strep throat are two common conditions that require an in-person consultation for diagnosis. However, K Health-affiliated clinicians can help assess severity and provide guidance on what to do next.
We also don't treat anyone:
- Under 18 or over 64
- Living in HI or AK
- Conditions that require a specialist (case by case)
- Currently pregnant
- Currently being treated for cancer with chemotherapy or radiotherapy
- Autoimmune disease
- Currently on immunosuppressants
- Diagnosed with AIDS
- Currently in Hospice care
- History of organ transplant
- Dependent on oxygen
- Significant liver, kidney, or other organ failure
- Seeking medical management related to worker’s comp or injury litigation
We don't prescribe controlled substances, and we cannot prescribe other high risk medications that are subject to abuse. Learn more on our policy page.
Is the data I share with K Health private?
Do you provide doctor's notes and sick notes?
During a pediatric consultation, clinicians can write notes for your children to return to, or be dismissed from, school, activities, camp, and more, if needed.
During an adult consultation, K Health-affiliated clinicians can only provide a note stating the date when a patient was seen and that a treatment plan/care was established.
Can I use my insurance to pay for this?
No, but it’s cheaper than your insurance copay so you still win!
Can I get a prescription online through the K Health app?
Yes! Your K-affiliated doctor will evaluate you to determine what prescription, if any, is appropriate. Once a doctor or clinician determines you need a prescription, he or she will send it to your local pharmacy or mail it to your door, if available.
Learn more about what we treat and our refill policy here.
How much does K Health cost?
It's free to use the symptom checker.
If you want to chat with a clinician, a one-time visit costs $35. This includes three days of follow-up.
Our K Health Primary Care membership includes nearly everything K Health offers for $29/month.
- Unlimited text-based visits with board-certified clinicians
- Doctors online day and night for Primary Care and Urgent Care*
- Free Pediatrics care for your kids over 3-17
- Easy prescription management and renewals management, plus steep discounts
- As always, no insurance needed, all on your own schedule
Our Mental Health membership includes everything the Primary Care membership does, in addition to treatment for anxiety & depression for $49/month.
*24/7 Urgent Care is available in all 48 continental US states. Not available in Alaska or Hawaii.
K Health memberships are not insurance and exclude ancillary services (e.g., referrals, labs, equipment, cost of medication, etc). See Terms of Service.
Does K Health offer discounts on medication?
Discounts are available with the RxSaver Card, which can save you up to 80% on many medications.
Here's how to use it:
Show your RxSaver card (located in the app under "Profile" > "RxSaver Card") to your pharmacist when you pick up your prescription. Ask them to check the RxSaver discount price, and to compare it to your insurance or Medicare plan price (if you have insurance or Medicare). You and your pharmacist can determine the lowest price available.
To get an idea of price before picking up your medication, visit rxsaver.com and search for your medication.
Can I really chat with a doctor whenever I want to?
Yes! Doctors are available 24/7 via the K Health app for Urgent Care needs in all 48 continental US states. Not available in Alaska or Hawaii.
Do you need insurance to use K Health?
You can sign up for our K Health membership for $29/month* which includes access to our Primary Care program, 24/7 Urgent Care visits*, Urgent Care for your kids ages 3-17, and more. A one-time visits cost $35*. Our symptom checker is always free to use.
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Can Stress Cause Diarrhea?
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Home Remedies for Constipation
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