Constipation is a common complaint and is often self-treated based on the patient’s
impression that there has been a change in normal bowel function. However, the term
constipation may mean different things to different people.
Many people believe that a daily bowel movement is necessary for good health. Therefore,
an important health role for the pharmacy front shop staff is to educate people about normal
bowel function. It is, however, essential to find out from the person complaining about
constipation, if their bowel habits have changed from what is usual for them. It may be
necessary to refer people with persistent constipation to their doctor for further evaluation.
Diarrhoea is not a disease but can be a symptom of several illnesses. It is usually a
symptom of an infection in the intestinal tract, which can be caused by various bacteria,
viruses, or parasitic organisms. The infection is typically spread by the intake of
contaminated food or water, or from person-to-person because of poor hygiene.
The most severe threat posed by diarrhoea is dehydration. During an episode of diarrhoea,
water and electrolytes are lost through the frequent passing of liquid stools. Dehydration
happens when these water and electrolyte losses are not replaced. Dehydration may rapidly
progress from mild to moderate to severe, particularly in young children and the elderly.
This module discusses constipation and acute infectious diarrhoea (gastroenteritis) and their
management in the community pharmacy setting.