When to go to Urgent Care for Diarrhea
Urgent care is always a good option if you have severe diarrhea or blood in your stool. It can also be helpful when you have vomiting along with diarrhea, such as that caused by food poisoning. If your stomach discomfort and diarrhea are accompanied by fever, weakness, or changes in mental status (sudden confusion), it’s time to get urgent medical care. In more extreme cases of infection—if you notice signs of dehydration like excessive thirst or dry mouth—or if you’re unable to keep liquids down, go immediately to an urgent care center or emergency room . In less serious cases, make an appointment with your primary care doctor as soon as possible. Any episode of watery stool and stomach pain should be discussed with a physician because dehydration is easy and potentially dangerous.
If you’re experiencing severe diarrhea—like if you’re unable to keep any liquids down, or you’re having more than six watery stools in a day—go straight to an urgent care. The same goes if your symptoms are accompanied by high fever (103 degrees or higher), nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain or blood in your stool. These symptoms could indicate appendicitis or a viral infection like norovirus; these types of infections require treatment with antibiotics right away.
If you develop diarrhea that lasts longer than a day, or is accompanied by fever or abdominal pain, it’s time to go to urgent care. Bloody stools are a medical emergency, too. Since bloody diarrhea could be due to various gastrointestinal problems (including gastric ulcers and inflammatory bowel disease), you should tell your urgent care doctor about any recent changes in your diet or medications. If your urgent care physician suspects infection with Campylobacter (which can cause bloody diarrhea), he or she may send a stool sample out for testing at a lab. Treatment involves supportive care: plenty of fluids, rest and comfort measures such as heating pads—but never use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which can irritate your intestinal lining even more.
When you have severe, persistent diarrhea that doesn’t improve after 72 hours, see your doctor. That’s because your intestines can become damaged if they aren’t given a chance to rest between bouts of diarrhea. You also should see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms: fever; abdominal pain or tenderness; nausea and vomiting; blood in stool; or signs of dehydration.