When should you see a doctor?
Due to the nature of symptoms experienced, it is more than likely that your primary healthcare provider will be your first port of call. From there, if he or she suspects it may be necessary, you or your child may be referred to a gastroenterologist or infectious disease specialist.
In the case of a baby or young child, signs you should see your doctor are:
- Diarrhoea for more than 24 hours
- Frequent episodes of vomiting
- Stool that is black or tarry, and or / contains any blood or pus
- A high temperature or fever (higher than (38-40 degrees celsius)
- Signs of pain
- Lethargy (unusual sleepiness) or irritability
- Signs of dehydration (dry mouth, crying without the presence of tears, little or no urination, or unresponsiveness)
Adults should consult their physician when:
- Unable to keep fluids down for at least 24 hours
- Experiencing diarrhoea for more than 2 days (24 – 48 hours)
- There is the presence of blood in stools (bowel movements) or vomit
- Experiencing a high temperature or fever (higher than (38-40 degrees celsius)
- Experiencing signs of dehydration, excessive thirst, severe weakness, or light-headedness and dizziness, especially when standing.
Diagnosis and tests
A diagnosis is generally made following an assessment of symptoms (this includes a physical examination) experienced in person during a consultation. In some instances, a stool sample may be requested for analysis to confirm a diagnosis.
Testing of stool (faeces) will only be necessary if your physician needs to confirm, or rule out, any other causes of your overall symptoms. Bowel movements can provide your doctor with valuable insight and information as to what may be happening in the stomach, intestines or other part of the gastrointestinal system.
Other conditions your physician may want to check include:
- An allergy (such as a milk protein allergy) or other inflammation in the body.
- Other types of bacterial or viral infections. In some instances, an infection is caused by a parasite.
- Other digestion problems such as the malabsorption of certain sugars, fats or nutrients.
- Bleeding inside the gastrointestinal tract.
During the consultation, your physician may ask the following:
- How long ago did symptoms begin?
- Have the symptoms been continuous, or do they come and go?
- Are the symptoms experienced mild or severe?
- Have you tried to treat any of the symptoms? And if so, has any means of treatment appeared to improve or worsen symptoms?