4 Common Diarrhea Causes—and What to Do if You Get Sick

How to handle ‘the runs’

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A 2009 study found another compelling reason to avoid these germs: People who'd had stomach infections caused by salmonella or campylobacter were found to be at increased risk for developing IBD later on. The study used data from laboratory registries to compare 13,149 people who had these infections with 26,218 people who hadn't been exposed to the germs. In the exposed group, 107 people were later diagnosed with IBD, compared with 74 people in the unexposed group.

The good news is that if you're healthy and pick up a germ that makes you ill, you will probably get better in a matter of days. Assuming that a doctor can determine which germ made you sick, antibiotics may be prescribed for people who have persistent diarrhea or a compromised immune system.

* A viral infection—or viral gastroenteritis—caused by such bugs as the rotavirus and norovirus triggers symptoms similar to those of a bacterial infection but can't be attacked by antibiotics. Treatment involves plenty of rest and hydration.

Don't be too quick to go back to your favorite greasy or spicy foods once you're on the mend. A bland diet—such as rice, toast, bananas and applesauce—is often recommended as you resume solid foods.

As with bacterial infections, you can prevent viral infections through proper handling of food and washing your hands often.

[See Back-to-School Germs to Avoid]

Updated on 09/07/2012: This article was originally published on June 5, 2009. It has been updated by Rachel Pomerance.