Managing suspected infectious diarrhoea

Public Health England


  • Acute diarrhoea is usually defined as: 3 or more episodes a day, <14 days and stool takes shape of pot
  • Infectious diarrhoea is common (affecting a quarter of us annually) but should be viewed as a differential diagnosis alongside other potential causes of diarrhoea as no infectious agent is found in 60% of diarrhoeal illnesses
  • Most infectious diarrhoea is a self-limited, usually viral illness. Nearly half of episodes last less than one day
  • If diarrhoea has stopped, culture is rarely indicated unless there is a public health indication
  • Do not give empirical antibiotics unless Clostridium difficile or Campylobacter spp. are suspected

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