Type your tag names separated by a space and hit enter

Diarrhea, Adult

Diarrhea, Adult is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

To view the entire topic, please or purchase a subscription.

Emergency Central is a collection of disease, drug, and test information including 5-Minute Emergency Medicine Consult, Davis’s Drug, McGraw-Hill Medical’s Diagnosaurus®, Pocket Guide to Diagnostic Tests, and MEDLINE Journals created for emergency medicine professionals. Explore these free sample topics:

Emergency Central

-- The first section of this topic is shown below --



Bowel movements characterized as frequent (>3/day), loose, and watery owing to an infectious or toxin exposure


  • Viruses:
    • 50–70% of all cases
  • Invasive bacteria:
    • Campylobacter:
      • Contaminated food or water, wilderness water, birds, and animals
      • Most common bacterial diarrhea
      • Gross or occult blood is found in 60–90%.
    • Salmonella:
      • Contaminated water, eggs, poultry, or dairy products
      • Typhoid fever (Salmonella typhi) characterized by unremitting fever, abdominal pain, rose spots, splenomegaly, and bradycardia
    • Shigella:
      • Fecal or oral route
    • Vibrio parahaemolyticus:
      • Raw and undercooked seafood
    • Yersinia:
      • Contaminated food (pork), water, and milk
      • May present as mesenteric adenitis or mimic appendicitis
  • Bacterial toxin:
    • Escherichia coli:
      • Major cause of traveler's diarrhea
      • Ingestion of food or water contaminated by feces
    • Staphylococcus aureus:
      • Most common toxin-related disease
      • Symptoms 1–6 hr after ingesting food
    • Bacillus cereus:
      • Classic source—fried rice left on steam tables
      • Symptoms within 1–36 hr
    • Clostridium difficile:
      • Antibiotic-associated enteritis linked to pseudomembranous colitis
      • Incubation period within 10 days of exposure or initiation of antibiotics
    • Aeromonas hydrophila:
      • Aquatic sources primarily
      • Affects children <3 yr of age
      • Fecal leukocytes absent
    • Cholera:
      • Caused by enterotoxin produced by Vibrio cholerae
      • Profuse watery stools with mucus (classic appearance of rice-water stools)
  • Protozoa:
    • Giardia lamblia:
      • Most common cause of parasite gastroenteritis in North America
      • High-risk groups: Travelers, children in day care centers, institutionalized people, homosexual men, and campers who drink untreated mountain water
    • Cryptosporidium parvum:
      • Commonly carried in patients with AIDS
    • Entamoeba histolytica (entamebiasis):
      • 5–10% extraintestinal manifestations (hepatic amebic abscess)

Pediatric Considerations
  • Most are viral in origin and self-limited.
  • Rotavirus accounts for 50%.
  • Shigella: Infections associated with seizures
  • Focus evaluation on state of hydration.

-- To view the remaining sections of this topic, please or purchase a subscription --


Rosen, Peter, et al., editors. "Diarrhea, Adult." 5-Minute Emergency Consult, 5th ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2016. Emergency Central, emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307522/all/Diarrhea__Adult.
Diarrhea, Adult. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, et al, eds. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307522/all/Diarrhea__Adult. Accessed April 25, 2019.
Diarrhea, Adult. (2016). In Rosen, P., Shayne, P., Barkin, A. Z., Wolfe, R. E., Hayden, S. R., Barkin, R. M., & Schaider, J. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Available from https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307522/all/Diarrhea__Adult
Diarrhea, Adult [Internet]. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, Wolfe RE, Hayden SR, Barkin RM, Schaider JJ, editors. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. [cited 2019 April 25]. Available from: https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307522/all/Diarrhea__Adult.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Diarrhea, Adult ID - 307522 ED - Rosen,Peter, ED - Shayne,Philip, ED - Barkin,Adam Z, ED - Wolfe,Richard E, ED - Hayden,Stephen R, ED - Barkin,Roger M, ED - Schaider,Jeffrey J, BT - 5-Minute Emergency Consult UR - https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307522/all/Diarrhea__Adult PB - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ET - 5 DB - Emergency Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -