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Loose Motion: Causes, Symptoms, and When to Seek Help

Loose Motion

Loose motion, also known as diarrhoea, is a common gastrointestinal issue that affects people of all ages. It can be a discomforting and sometimes embarrassing condition, but it’s essential to understand its causes, symptoms, and potential remedies to alleviate the discomfort and prevent dehydration.

In this blog, we’ll explore the various aspects of loose motion, from its underlying causes to practical tips for managing and treating it effectively. 

What is Loose Motion?

Loose motion is common but unpleasant, with loose or watery stools. It usually resolves in a few days, causing mild inconvenience. Yet, it can be a sign of a serious issue, potentially leading to dehydration or nutrient deficiency. Recognizing when to seek medical help for loose motion is crucial

What Are the Symptoms of Loose Motion?

The main symptoms of loose motion include frequent loose, watery stools and a pressing urge to have a bowel movement.

Symptoms may vary depending on the cause and can include:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Bloating
  • Dehydration
  • Frequent urge to evacuate your bowels
  • A large volume of stools

Dehydration and loose motion

Loose motion can lead to rapid fluid loss and dehydration, with symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Dry mucous membranes
  • Increased heart rate
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Increased thirst
  • Decreased urination
  • Dry mouth

Contact your doctor immediately if you suspect dehydration due to loose motion.

Loose motion in babies and young children

Children, especially infants, are vulnerable to loose motion and dehydration. Loose motion is a major contributor to child mortality globally. 

Seek medical attention for children displaying signs of dehydration, such as:

  • Decreased urination
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of tears when crying
  • Dry skin
  • Sunken eyes
  • Sunken fontanel
  • Sleepiness
  • Irritability.

You Can Also Read:  How to Stop Loose Motion Home Remedies

What Are the Causes of Loose Motion?

Loose motion, often called “stomach flu” or “stomach bug,” can stem from various sources:

  • Infections: Pathogens like viruses, bacteria, and parasites, with norovirus and rotavirus as the common culprits
  • Food poisoning: Consuming contaminated foods or drinks, especially in new environments (traveller’s loose motion).
  • Medications: Antibiotics, magnesium-containing antacids, cancer drugs, and excessive laxative use can induce it.
  • Foods: Lactose intolerance, fructose intolerance, and celiac disease may lead to loose motion.
  • Diseases: Conditions like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) can irritate the bowels, exacerbated by stress.
  • Procedures: Bowel surgeries and recovery time impact stool consistency, potentially causing loose motion.

What is the Treatment for Loose Motion?

Loose motion can often be managed at home with OTC medicines. Consult a healthcare provider if loose motion persists or accompanies severe symptoms.

Potential treatments your provider might recommend include:

  • Antibiotics or antiparasitics to combat infection.
  • Medications for underlying conditions like IBD or IBS, address the root cause.
  • Probiotics to introduce beneficial bacteria for loose motion relief (consult your provider first).

When a child has severe loose motion, contact their paediatrician. Treatments vary for adults, and over-the-counter medications can be unsafe. Children face a higher risk of dehydration, so consult your provider for hydration options. Some options are:

  • Electrolyte drinks for older children (providers don’t recommend this for babies)
  • Formula
  • Breast (chest) milk

Consult the provider before changing hydration methods or treatments as your child grows older for safety.

What Are the Home Remedies for Loose Motion?

To manage acute loose motion at home, adopt these strategies:

  1. Hydration-

    Consume ample water and electrolyte-balanced fluids like diluted fruit juices, broths, sports drinks, and caffeine-free sodas to replace lost fluids and electrolytes.

  2. Dietary choices-

    Opt for BRAT diet foods (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) or items like potatoes, noodles, lean meat, fish, and skinless poultry to firm stools and aid recovery.

  3. Avoidance-

    Steer clear of caffeine (coffee, strong tea, chocolate) and alcohol to prevent aggravating loose motion. Avoid gas-inducing foods (beans, cabbage) and temporarily skip dairy if lactose intolerance develops.

These simple home-based changes can alleviate acute loose motion and expedite the healing process.

You Can Also Read: What’s Causing Your Abdominal Pain and How to Treat It

What Are the Preventive Measures for Loose Motion?

While it’s not always possible to avoid loose motion, you can lower your chance of contracting an illness or consuming contaminated food. 

Practise good hygiene:

  • Wash hands with soap and water after using the bathroom or handling food.
  • Consider using hand sanitiser when soap and water aren’t available.

Get vaccinated:

  • The Rotavirus vaccine prevents loose motion caused by rotavirus.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine lowers the risk of loose motion and COVID-19 symptoms.

Store food properly:

  • Keep food at recommended temperatures.
  • Cook food thoroughly; don’t consume expired items.

When travelling:

  • Avoid untreated water, tap water, and ice cubes.
  • Stay away from unpasteurized milk or juice.
  • Opt for bottled water or boiled beverages.
  • Be cautious with raw or undercooked meats, shellfish, and raw fruits/vegetables due to potential contaminants in the skin.

Taking these precautions can help minimise the chances of loose motion from infections or contaminated food.

When Should I Call a Doctor for Loose Motion?

Most cases of acute loose motion are self-resolving, with symptom improvement within a few days.

However, if symptoms persist beyond 2 days, consult a doctor to avoid dehydration, which may require IV fluids and further evaluation.

Loose motion can signal serious emergencies if accompanied by:

  • Fever
  • Bloody stools
  • Frequent vomiting

Seek immediate medical help if your child:

  • Has loose motion for 24+ hours
  • Has a fever of 102°F (39°C) or higher
  • Passes stools with blood or pus
  • Passes black, tarry stools

These symptoms indicate an emergency and require prompt attention.


Loose motion results in frequent watery stools, often from infections. Severe dehydration is a risk. Chronic cases are less common, but they can be a result of long-term issues. It is always advisable to seek medical help from an experienced gastroenterologist. Timely care and help can ensure an appropriate diagnosis and treatment of your condition. 

At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult a gastroenterologist, reach out to us, or book a direct appointment at the CK Birla Hospital.


What Are the Most Common Causes of Loose Motion?

Common causes of loose motion include viral or bacterial infections, food poisoning, dietary choices, medications, stress, and underlying medical conditions. Hydration is crucial for cure.

How Can I Differentiate Between Normal Loose Motion and One that Requires Medical Attention?

Seek medical attention if you experience severe dehydration, bloody stools, persistent loose motion for over 48 hours, high fever, or other concerning symptoms like abdominal pain or weakness.

Are There Any Effective Home Remedies for Quick Relief From Loose Motion?

Home remedies include staying hydrated with oral rehydration solutions, consuming bland foods like rice and bananas, avoiding dairy, and using ginger or mint tea to ease discomfort. Rest is essential.

What Dietary Changes Can Help in Preventing Loose Motion?

Prevent loose motion by maintaining good hygiene, drinking clean water, avoiding raw or undercooked foods, and incorporating probiotics and fibre-rich foods into your diet for digestive health.

When Should I Worry About the Duration or Frequency of Loose Motion?

Worry if loose motion lasts over 48 hours, occurs frequently, or is accompanied by severe dehydration, blood in stools, high fever, or other concerning symptoms. Seek medical help.

How Can Stress Contribute to Loose Motion and How to Manage It?

Stress can disrupt digestion and cause loose motion. To manage it, practise relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, and maintain a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and adequate sleep. 

What Are Some Long-term Complications of Untreated Chronic Loose Motion?

Untreated chronic loose motion can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, electrolyte imbalances, and damage to the intestinal lining, potentially causing long-term digestive problems and nutritional deficiencies.

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