Diarrhea is defined as loose, watery stools occurring more than three times in one day. The average adult has a bout of diarrhea four times per year. It is a common problem that usually lasts a day or two and goes away on its own without any special treatment. Prolonged diarrhea can be due to a variety of pathogens as outlined in the HEPPigram below.
Keep in mind that patients may use the word diarrhea to describe anything from an upset stomach, to occasional watery stools, to frequent voluminous bowel movements. Sometimes, patients may require observation to allow objective documentation of symptoms. Reliably obtaining stool specimens in the correctional setting can be challenging and may require a brief stay in the infirmary.
Joseph Bick, M.D., is Chief Medical Officer at the California Medical Facility, California Department of Corrections.