National Continence Helpline

8am - 8pm Monday to Friday AEST Talk to a continence nurse

Loose bowel motions

Get help from a health care professional, or talk to your supervisor or care coordinator if:

  • the person looks unwell or has a pain in their abdomen (stomach) or anus (bottom)
  • the bowel motion looks black, dark red or bright red
  • there is blood in the toilet bowl or on the toilet paper.

What is diarrhoea?

Diarrhoea is a watery, soft or mushy bowel motion. Sometimes there can also be stomach cramps or pain and a sick feeling.

People with diarrhoea may find it hard to hold on to their bowel motions and need to rush to the toilet multiple times per day. Diarrhoea can cause dehydration, as well as malnutrition if it lasts for a long time.

What should you do if the person you support has diarrhoea?

  • Discuss the person's care with your supervisor. You may need to arrange for a visit to their general practitioner (GP).
  • Organise suitable continence pads, if required. When pads are soiled, they need to be changed quickly to protect the skin from the watery bowel motion. The skin needs to be cleaned well.
  • If the person has limited mobility, make sure any mobility aids are used and check if their needs have changed.
  • Check for any changes to the person's diet or routine:
    • Have they changed what they eat?
    • Does their diet have enough fibre? Arrange a dietitian appointment if you're not sure.
    • Are they drinking less than usual?
    • Have they started any new medicines? Don't change their medicines but tell their GP if they get diarrhoea.
  • If the person has been prescribed medicines to treat diarrhoea by a GP or nurse practitioner, make sure they have taken them. The medicines might need to be reviewed by a health care professional.

People experiencing continued problems with loose bowel motions or diarrhoea should see their GP or other health care professional for investigation and treatment.

Need more help? Call the National Continence Helpline on 18OO 33 OO 66 and talk to a continence nurse advisor.

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This information is not a substitute for independent professional advice.