I've recently been having diarrhoea and may be calling in sick to work tomorrow. I work at a small company, so typically this involves emailing my manager and team with something like this:

Hi team, I seem to have caught the flu that's going around my son's day care. I'll be working from home today so I don't get anyone else sick.

In this case I was looking for a similar way to communicate with my manager/coworkers without grossing them out, but still making it clear that it's really in everyone's best interest for me to stay home.


19 Answers 19


Upset stomach

a disorder of digestive function characterized by discomfort or heartburn or nausea

Edit — As seen from the comments, this is actually an informal term for Dyspepsia.

Dyspepsia, also known as indigestion or upset stomach, is a term that describes discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen. It is not a disease. Dyspepsia is a group of symptoms which often include bloating, nausea and burping.

Diarrhoea often follows Dyspepsia. So unless you need to provide specific details about your stomach condition, it's best to use upset stomach. I wouldn't like to hear from an employee the words like Diarrhoea, the runs etc. The imagery is off putting.

Note: Diarrhea isn't always contagious. The infectious diarrhea is called Gastroenteritis or stomach flu*.

*Info gathered from various posts on this page. comment1, Malvolio's answer, comment2, Martha's answer, comment3, Dave's answer


Following on from what Dan Bron said, yes, it can often be euphemistically, albeit informally, called the runs. Similarly, it can be called the trots.

the runs/the trots informal


Source: Oxford Dictionaries Online

  • 50
    To me this is so much more informal/gross than just saying diarrhea. I speak US english, I would NEVER use this is a work context, and would be surprised if I heard it (I never have). I work at a small-ish extremely casual work place as well. In my experience I always will just say/hear "stomach bug, stomach flu, upset stomach" etc. and people understand without wanting more detail.
    – jdf
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 21:02

I'm not sure why you would want to use a euphemism for a common and unremarkable condition. Indeed, many workplaces (here in the UK) have it written explicitly into their sickness policies that workers suffering from vomiting or diarrhoea should not return to work for 48 hours.

In an email, if your colleagues are truly so squeamish I would suggest that you follow the suggestions given earlier to be non-specific: "I can't come in to work due to illness". If you must be more specific, then use whatever term is common in your area. In practice, this varies so much that it is almost meaningless to give advice; most of the ideas given by others would cause puzzlement or suggest that you were taking the situation far too light-heartedly. For what it's worth, here in England the most common euphemism would be 'the runs'.

Having said that I might be non-specific in the initial notification, I would guess that most workplaces have a requirement to account in detail on return to work. Again, this is going to vary widely but here we are required to 'self-certify' absences up to 7 working days and have a doctor's note after that.


It's sometimes referred to as having a tummy bug.

The term is suggestive of lower evacuation, though strictly-speaking, it includes upper as well in its list of symptoms.

A tummy run is more specific.


I recommend the phrase "Gastrointestinal distress." It's relatively formal (appropriate for a work setting), and avoids the messy details, but makes it very clear exactly which organ system is affected. This leaves plenty of room for the recipients' minds to fill in the blanks if they're truly curious about the nature of the ailment, but does them the service of not presenting that information graphically.

If you truly need to be more explicit than that, simply use the term "diarrhea." It's a clinically accurate term that no reasonable adult should object to. As pointed out in other answers, though, I doubt this level of explication is necessary.


For a euphemistic balance between professional courtesy and vague-but-useful information, perhaps something like:

I am really not feeling well at all. Without going into unpleasant detail, I certainly could try to come in, but I am seriously reluctant to be more than 30 seconds from a toilet.

If there is anything you could email me, I will cheerfully get on with it here.


Depending on the cause of the condition, maybe something vague like "I've eaten something that disagrees with me" or "I've picked up a bug", followed by "and spent most of the night on the toilet" (depending on workplace and relationship) might be clear enough without being overly explicit? I've used similar constructions in the past in a small company (with colleagues I'd go drinking with after work)

  • I usually say "I ate something I shouldn't have". Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 12:36

I have heard the expression "a bout of the gastro" being used before, where gastro is an abbreviation for gastroenteritis or stomach related ailments.


There's usually no need to mention the reason for sickness. People will understand that it's better that you stay home if you're sick. And if it is asked, only then you may respond with the euphemism, such as those discussed in earlier comments and answers — upset stomach, loose motion, the runs, etc.

Just email them saying something similar to these, for example:

"Martha? This is Jack. I have a fever and I will not be able to come in today."

"Hi Mary, I have to use a sick day today. I'm feeling terrible right now."

"Hi Steve, this is Mark. I wanted to let you know that I am too sick to come in today."

Taken from TalkEnglish.com - Sick Day

That said, I found this list of euphemisms for diarrhoea, which I don't recommend for any work communication. I post this only in response to comments saying "this doesn't answer the question". My recommendation is upset stomach, as suggested by arrivalin

  • I'm not the downvoter, but I agree that this is not a good answer to the question. Non-answers make better comments in most cases (for example, perhaps some description of the illness is required by HR for some reason). Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 19:30
  • @user1717828 I agree. But I wanted to explain it this way, which didn't fit the word limit for comment. Also, there is another answer posted after mine giving a similar advice. Apparently both our answers are well received. So I suppose it's okay here.
    – NVZ
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 20:26
  • In my experience (in the UK), it is always considered courteous to give an explanation or at least some broad hint as to what the sickness involves. Not doing so is often termed 'throwing a sickie', i.e. taking a fraudulent sick day, with or without a specific excuse. That is why some organisations got tired of all this and adopted the idea of duvet days: under such a system, it's accepted as OK to say occasionally that you simply can't face it today. It's legitimately a kind of 'sickness', which operates in practice as unscheduled leave. Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 22:26

How about alvine movements/[alvine] flux

Now coming home she suddenly developed diarrhea, with copious alvine movements [...]

alvine (adj.)

Designating an excretion from the intestines or (rarely) other organ of the belly. Also: designating the intestinal tract; of or relating to the intestinal tract.

Oxford Dictionaries

alvine flux

: simple diarrhea

The Medical Dictionary

  • I don't think anyone would understand this except maybe a medical professional.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 2, 2022 at 8:31

People like to say "stomach flu", even though the problem has no connection with influenza and often isn't an infection at all.

You can say "gastroenteritis", which will make it sound like you've been to the doctor.

There are a lot of vaguely racist euphemisms, like "Montezuma's revenge", "Havana omelet", and "curry-in-a-hurry", that imply you are suffering from having eaten foreign foods.

If none of those are your style, try "the trots", "the runs", "the shits", "the squirts", "the squits", "colon blow", " assquake", or the ever-popular "green-apple quickstep".


I'm sorry, I know this question already has a surfeit of responses, but they all either don't suggest the best, most obvious answer, or they also suggest totally inappropriate answers.

To refer to diarrhea without grossing people out (and I'm sorry, any pseudo-playful term like "the trots" or "the runs" is more graphic than just using the D-word), the usual term is stomach bug. You can also use stomach flu, although the ailment does not actually have anything to do with influenza; using "flu" here merely implies that whatever you have is contagious. For a very young child, you can use tummy bug, but for explaining to said very young child's presumably not-so-very-young teacher, just stick to stomach bug.


In British English, you've "picked up a D and V bug".

Examples of usage:

A number of wards at Doncaster Royal Infirmary have been closed to new patients because they are affected by seasonal diarrhoea and vomiting – D&V or gastroenteritis – caused by the Norovirus.

D&V affects people of all ages. It is commonly transmitted by person-to-person contact where there has been inadequate hand hygiene after use of the toilet (faecal contamination).


Help! I have d & v bug - any advice on how to get rid quickly? ... I started being sick on sunday night and since then have also had an upset tummy.


Our position was further exacerbated by having a number of key individuals 'out of action' thanks to a particularly virulent D & V bug

We Are Soldiers: Our heroes. Their stories. Real life on the frontline, Danny Danziger, 2010.


The trots.

M-W def #4

The squits.



If the ailment was picked up on a trip to Mexico, you could call it Montezuma's Revenge.

This web page has other hilarious euphemisms like The Gringo Gallop and The Aztec Two-step.

It also has phrases for other locations around the world: Gandhi's Revenge, Delhi Belly, The Rangoon Runs, Bombay Belly (India), Gyppy Tummy, The Cairo Two-step, Pharaoh's Revenge, Mummy's Tummy (Egypt) Bali Belly (Indonesia)


Slightly ambiguous, not that common, but definitely euphemistic would be unsettled down below. Here is an example of it being used:

...This tea is good for so much more than nausea. I find it starts to settle any kind of intestinal disturbance in about fifteen minutes. Indigestion, gas, mild food poisoning cramps, helps settle motion sickness, even helps colds, flu, and sinus issues. It's one of the first remedies I turn to for anyone who is feeling unsettled "down below"... - source


"Intestinal distress" should get the point across without being vulgar or so sing to overthought. I would say that your statement of being ill should be enough though.

Could also go with "in and out of the bathroom".


Supper did not agree with me.

This leaves it open which route your supper decided to take, but strongly implies it's taking a shortcut. ;-)

That should be enough information even if it isn't actually your supper to blame. (And who could really tell?)

  • Downvoter care to comment? I am not a native speaker, and I'd like to know criticism on this phrasing, which I consider quite accurate.
    – DevSolar
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 14:13

Loose motion? "I've been suffering from loose motion for the past couple of days."

A euphemism for such statements does not exist denotatively, as most euphemisms originate from cultural roots.

A more scientific euphemism:

Gastroenteric discomfort This might sound a little off but I feel that it's better than diarrhea.

A funny one:

Unwilling excretory response This one is stated purely because its funny. Hope you'll use it once in a while when joking around. :)

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