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Acute diarrhoea

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Overall key points

Multiple pathologies are involved in the mechanism of diarrhoea.

It is important to assess for red flag symptoms and prevent dehydration.

Management can be optimised once the underlying cause is established.

Antibiotics can disrupt the balance of bacteria and in some cases lead to colonisation by C. difficile.

Responsible antibiotic prescribing is an NHS mandate.

Part 1: Overview

Diarrhoea is fairly complex in both its causation and definition. It is best defined medically in terms of frequency, consistency and either weight or volume within a 24-hour period: greater than three times per day and weighing more than 200g. However, patients may consider diarrhoea to be an increased stool liquidity, which can lead to misunderstandings. Diarrhoea is the most common reason for referral to a gastroenterologist in the UK.1


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