Diarrhoea and vomiting

Feeling sick and then vomiting is usually the first sign that your child has a ‘tummy bug’. Diarrhoea tends to occur after your child has started vomiting and means passing frequent watery poos that are offensive in nature.

  • Tummy bugs are extremely common in young children and are almost always caused by a virus. They are easily spread, resulting in outbreaks in nurseries and schools. 
  • Babies under 1 year of age (and especially under 6 months of age) are at more risk of becoming dehydrated when they have a tummy bug than older children, which is why it is important to make ensure that they are drinking enough.

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What should you do?

  • Avoiding dehydration is important – give your baby/child extra fluids. Give your baby oral rehydration solution (ORS) in between feeds or after each watery stool. Little and often tends to work best – in hospital, babies are given 1 or 2 tablespoons (5-10 mls) of fluid to drink every 5-10 minutes. You can try using a syringe to give fluids to your child. Mixing the contents of the ORS sachet in dilute squash (not “sugar-free” squash) instead of water may improve the taste
  • Do not stop giving your baby milk. If you are breastfeeding, continue doing so.
  • Do not worry if your child is not interested in solid food. If they are hungry, offer them plain food such as biscuits, bread, pasta or rice. It is advisable not to give them fizzy drinks as this can make diarrhoea worse.
  • To avoid spreading the virus, wash your hands with soap and water after changing nappies. Keep toilets clean and don’t share towels.
  • They should not return to school or any other childcare facility until 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea and / or vomiting



Download 'Diarrhoea and Vomiting' advice sheet

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How long will my child’s symptoms last?

  • Vomiting tends to last for 1-2 days, and diarrhoea tends to last for about 5 days.
  • The charts below show how long diarrhoea and vomiting lasts in children when they have a tummy bug. The faces represent 10 children who have seen their GP with a tummy bug. Green faces are those children who have recovered within that time period.

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The diagrams above are taken from www.whenshouldiworry.com

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When should you worry?

Your child should see a doctor if they...

  • appear to be getting dehydrated (cold hands and feet, sunken eyes, passing very little urine, becoming lethargic or difficult to wake, sunken soft spot on head in children less than a year of age).
  • have blood in their poo.
  • are keeping down no fluids despite taking fluids little and often.
  • continue to have fever and vomiting without any diarrhoea or without any contact with someone with a tummy bug.

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Where should you seek help?

Find urgent care services near you

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