Home Care Management of Diarrhea

Diarrhea is loose or watery stool that occurs at least 3 times within a period of 24 hours.  It happens when water in the intestine is not absorbed back into the body normally. Diarrhea is a common side effect of cancer therapy. Other causes include other medicines, infections, surgery, anxiety, tumor growth and supplemental feedings.


Homecare Instructions

  • Adhere to a clear liquid diet when you are having diarrhea (water, broth, popsicles, gelatin, etc.)
  • Advance to the BRATT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, tea) if tolerating clear liquids
  • Slowly begin solid foods once diarrhea has stopped
  • Eat small frequent meals throughout the day
  • Eat foods and drink fluids that are high in potassium (bananas, potatoes, apricots and sports drinks such as Gatorade® or Powerade®)
  • Avoid foods that are hot, spicy and greasy
  • Drink additional fluids above your normal intake
  • Avoid candies, pastries, desserts, nuts, milk products and caffeine
  • Record frequency, consistency and number of stools so you can share with your nurse or physician
  • Clean rectal area with mild soap and water after each diarrhea episode or use baby wipes to prevent irritation and skin breakdown
  • You may use Vaseline, A&D Ointment or similar barrier product to the rectal area to prevent skin breakdown
  • Avoid fiber supplements when experiencing multiple diarrhea episodes
  • Take anti-diarrhea medicine as instructed by your nurse or physician
  • Do not smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol


Report the Following Problems

  • Diarrhea lasting longer than 24 hours
  • Diarrhea lasting 24 hours despite prescribed anti-diarrhea medicine
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Unable to take in fluids
  • Fever greater than 100.5°
  • Decreased or dark colored urine
  • Excessive thirst or dry mouth
  • Weight loss greater than 5 pounds since diarrhea started
  • Red or open sores on skin around the rectal area
  • Call immediately if you have blood or mucus in your stool
  • Call immediately if you become confused or have extreme weakness