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Diarrhea: Is It COVID-19 or Something Else?

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Despite several months passing since the initial outbreak of COVID-19, there is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the virus. This is largely due to the fact that not everyone who contracts the virus experiences the same symptoms. And while the CDC has formed a fairly comprehensive list of symptoms associated with the coronavirus, it can still be difficult to know whether certain symptoms are a direct result of COVID-19, such as diarrhea, or something else. 

Why Viruses Cause Diarrhea

A number of different viruses, including coronavirus, can lead to gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms like diarrhea. Diarrhea is a common symptom because it is your body’s way of quickly clearing viruses, bacteria, and/or toxins from the digestive tract. However, diarrhea isn’t always a symptom of COVID-19 and can also be experienced when an individual is not ill. This conundrum is what causes many people to wonder if their diarrhea is a sign that they have COVID-19 or if it is due to something else. If you know that you’ve recently come into direct contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and you begin having diarrhea, especially if in addition to other symptoms, there is a possibility that you’ve contracted it. Other symptoms of the coronavirus to monitor for include:

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Flu Season

Unfortunately, many of these symptoms also overlap with the flu. This can make it even more difficult to distinguish whether your diarrhea is a sign of the coronavirus or influenza. There are some key differences between the flu and COVID-19, though.  For example, people with the coronavirus may not show symptoms until much later after contraction, and these same people can remain contagious for a longer period of time. To be absolutely sure which one you’re suffering from, your best course of action is to get tested.

Other Causes of Diarrhea

Of course, diarrhea can be related to many other conditions aside from COVID-19 and the flu. Unexpected diarrhea can be a result of a change in medication, food that has expired or that you’re intolerant to, heavy exertion or exercises like running, and a variety of other scenarios. If you’re experiencing diarrhea without any other symptoms, then there’s a good chance that it is not due to COVID-19. However, this doesn’t mean that you should ignore your bowel issues. Diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration, so it’s important that you take the right precautions and rehydrate. Water is a good way to replace fluids, but it doesn’t contain salts and electrolytes—minerals such as sodium and potassium—that are essential for your body to rehydrate and function. Because of this, you should also try to consume beverages like fruit juices and sports drinks for potassium or broths for sodium. Since many fruit juices and sports drinks contain large amounts of sugar, you can consider mixing them with water. Make sure to contact your primary care physician before adjusting your diet while experiencing GI symptoms; certain fruit juices, such as apple juice, can make diarrhea worse.

Receive Prompt, In-Home Treatment From DispatchHealth


If you need medical expertise but are afraid to leave your home and risk infecting yourself or others, DispatchHealth can come to you. We offer prompt and professional in-home medical care, so you don’t have to go anywhere to receive the treatment you need. Not only do we provide treatment for diarrhea and dehydration, but we also offer COVID-19 testing and treatment. If you suspect that you’ve contracted the coronavirus, our team can help you benefit from the support you need. We are taking extra precautions to protect our patients and staff from COVID-19 exposure, ensuring you feel comfortable having members of the DispatchHealth team in your home. We sport a plethora of personal protection equipment (PPE) and will thoroughly clean cars between visits to ensure the safety of our patients. 

If you’re suffering from severe diarrhea and dehydration or some other urgent illness or injury, contact DispatchHealth today through our website, mobile app, or phone. 


DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies. 

Sources referenced in this article: 

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
  2. https://share.upmc.com/2015/05/causes-of-diarrhea/
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diarrhea/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20352246