Cancer: Home Treatment for Diarrhea

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Cancer: Home Treatment for Diarrhea

Things you can do

Home treatment may be all that is needed to treat diarrhea caused by cancer or the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Be sure to follow any instructions and take any medicines your doctor has given you to treat diarrhea. Check with your doctor before using any non-prescription medicines for your diarrhea.

  • Take frequent, small sips of water or a rehydration drink and small bites of salty crackers.
  • Try to increase your fluid intake to at least 1 L (1 qt) each hour for 1 to 2 hours or until diarrhea symptoms disappear.
  • Begin eating mild foods the next day or sooner, depending on how you feel.
    • Avoid spicy foods, fruits, alcohol, and caffeine until 48 hours after all symptoms are gone.
    • Avoid chewing gum that contains sorbitol.
    • Avoid dairy products for 3 days after symptoms go away. When you have diarrhea, milk products may be harder for your body to digest.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

If one or more of the following symptoms occur during home treatment, contact your doctor:

  • Signs of dehydration develop.
  • You develop severe diarrhea (large, loose bowel movements every 1 to 2 hours).
  • You have any diarrhea for longer than 1 week.
  • You have severe pain in your belly.
  • You develop black or bloody stools.
  • You develop a fever.
  • Your symptoms become more severe or more frequent.

Cleaning up diarrhea

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you wear disposable gloves when cleaning up diarrhea or other body fluids. You may wear reusable rubber gloves if you wash them after each use. If you don't have gloves, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water when you are finished.

For steps on how to clean up diarrhea from skin, soiled linens, or hard surfaces, see Cleaning Up Diarrhea.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Andrew Swan, MD, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology
Last Revised December 30, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.