Dozens of People Had Explosive Diarrhea After Filming an NBC Show—Here's What That Is and What Causes It

Yep, there's something even more awful than regular diarrhea.

Having diarrhea is unpleasant under the best of circumstances. But having so-called "explosive diarrhea" is the stuff of nightmares.

Unfortunately, that's what happened to several crew members on NBC's upcoming game show Ultimate Slip 'N Slide, according to The Wrap. A source told the publication that "up to 40 crew members fell violently ill" with symptoms that included "awful explosive diarrhea."

Some people were "collapsing" on set from the illness and were "forced to run into port-o-potties."

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Water on the set was reportedly tested by a third-party environmental lab in cooperation with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and Ventura County Public Health. While water samples from a well, pond, slide pool, water truck, and bathroom sinks tested negative for giardia, additional testing results showed a tiny parasite, giardia, in the area surrounding the set.

The giardia parasite causes the diarrheal disease giardiasis, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Giardia can be found on surfaces or in soil, food, or water that has been contaminated with poop from infected people or animals, infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Maryland, tells Health. Dr. Adalja says it isn't shocking that a water-based activity was linked to a giardiasis outbreak. "These happen every summer," he says.

A representative for Universal Television Alternative Studios, the company producing the show for NBC, told People in a statement that the production team decided to stop filming at the current location "out of an abundance of caution." Now, the group says, "we are in the process of determining next steps in order to complete production."

Explosive diarrhea sounds…scary. But what does it mean, exactly? Doctors break it down, plus what to do if you're unlucky enough to experience this.

What is explosive diarrhea?

Technically, explosive diarrhea isn't a medical term, but it can be used to describe some pretty intense poop action. "When people say 'explosive diarrhea,' they usually mean there's an urgency to it and a sort of violent expulsion," Kyle Staller, MD, a gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells Health.

It's not necessarily the same thing as severe diarrhea, which doctors usually think of as having more than six loose, watery poops a day, along with symptoms of dehydration and abdominal pain, Dr. Staller says. But explosive diarrhea can lead to severe diarrhea, he adds..

What causes explosive diarrhea?

Besides giardia, many other conditions can cause explosive diarrhea. Dr. Staller lists the following as more common sources:

  • Rotavirus
  • Norovirus
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Crohn's disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Celiac disease
  • Clostridium difficile
  • Certain chemotherapy drugs

When should you see a doctor for explosive diarrhea?

It depends. If you're just having explosive diarrhea but otherwise feel OK, Dr. Staller says you're probably fine waiting it out at home. But if you have these symptoms along with your explosive diarrhea, you'll want to call your doctor ASAP, he advises:

  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Mucus in your diarrhea
  • Dark colored urine
  • Feeling lightheaded when you stand up

"This would indicate that, at a minimum, you'll need intravenous fluids," he says. Also, if you have a condition like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or are immunocompromised or pregnant, Dr. Staller recommends calling your doctor right away. You could be at a higher-than-usual risk for complications from severe diarrhea.

If you suspect that you have giardiasis (meaning, you recently swam in a lake, river, or pool that may not have been well-chlorinated), don't sit on that either, Anita Gorwara, MD, a family medicine physician and medical director of urgent care at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Health. "You should come in and be seen," she says. If it's not treated, you run the risk of spreading it to your family members, friends, and other people around you, she points out.

How is explosive diarrhea treated?

Your doctor will often want to take a stool sample to try to determine what's behind your diarrhea, Dr. Gorwana says. Given that it can take time to get test results back, Dr. Staller says that many doctors will prescribe an antibiotic, just in case.

As for whether you should use an OTC anti-diarrheal medication like Imodium, Dr. Staller says that it may actually work against you in the long run. "The worry is that you may keep the infection inside," he says. If you're having "average diarrhea," a medication like Imodium is fine, he suggests. But if you're having more severe symptoms like a fever and bloody poop, you actually won't want to take one of these medications, he says.

At home, it's best to make sure you're taking care of yourself while you recover. "Hydration and a bland diet is important," Dr. Gorwana says.

As of now, Ultimate Slip 'N Slide is scheduled to premiere in early August after the end of the Summer Olympics.

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