A bunch of small flares popping up with one of the small flares being inspected by a magnifying glass.

How Long Does an IBS Flare Last?

Over the years plenty of people have asked me how long an IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) flare lasts. This question is often asked after I take the time to explain to someone that I cannot attend something or other due to a flare. Sometimes it is asked if I tell someone I cannot make definitive plans for the future.

Can you wait out an IBS flare

People sometimes want to know if I can wait out a flare and arrive a bit later. I have had people ask if I could try going to the bathroom, get it over with, and get on with my day. I wish it were that simple. I wish it was a one-and-done type of thing. Unfortunately, as anyone with IBS knows, it isn’t like that at all.

A flare can last for hours, days, weeks, or months on end. Even if we only run to the bathroom once in a day’s time we still must endure the other symptoms, and sometimes those symptoms linger for quite some time.

Can you predict an IBS flare?

Some people think I am able to predict when a flare will start and when it will end. I have found that IBS is unpredictable. If I think a flare is ending, it often isn’t. If I think I’m safe and will have a flare-free day, this often isn’t the case.

I think some people believe this because I talk about symptoms and tell them I am going to need to stick around the house. They don’t understand that this could mean I will need to go to the bathroom within minutes or in a day or two, maybe more.

Sometimes symptoms of a flare are ongoing. Having to run to the bathroom isn’t the only symptom during a flare.

An IBS flare isn't just a few trips to the bathroom

There are also people who do not understand that a flare isn’t just having symptoms of needing to go followed by going once and that’s the end of it. Oh no. I wish it was like that.

I think this misconception of a flare is the reason why some people don’t understand why I must cancel plans and stay home. This misunderstanding causes hurt feelings.

You never know how long an IBS flare will last

Trying to explain how long a flare lasts is pointless. It changes constantly. A flare can end quickly and return just as quickly. Another flare can start the same day as one ended.

A flare can appear out of nowhere with no warning. It might end soon, and it might linger for months. There is no way to tell when one will start or stop and how long it will take for another flare to begin.

IBS flares vary and are unpredictable

The best answer as to how long a flare lasts is anywhere from minutes to months. It can arrive suddenly and last only a very short time or it can last for days, weeks, or months. This can change from flare to flare. Flares change and can be quite different. IBS truly is unpredictable and varies wildly.

How do you explain to people how long a flare or symptoms of a flare lasts? I would love to hear how you answer questions about IBS.

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