Overview

Diarrhoea and vomiting are common in adults, children and babies. You can have them together or on their own.

They're usually caused by a stomach bug and should pass in a few days.

How to treat diarrhoea and vomiting yourself

You can usually treat yourself or your child at home.

The most important thing is to have plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Do:

  • stay at home and get plenty of rest
  • drink lots of fluids, such as water and squash - take small sips if you feel sick
  • carry on giving breast or bottle feeds to your baby - if they're being sick, try giving them small feeds more often than usual
  • for babies on formula or solid foods, give small sips of water between feeds
  • eat when you feel able to - you don't need to have or avoid any specific foods
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen if you're in discomfort - check the leaflet before giving them to your child

Don't:

  • have fruit juice or fizzy drinks - they can make diarrhoea worse
  • make baby formula weaker - use it at its usual strength
  • give young children medicine to stop diarrhoea
  • give aspirin to children under 16

How long diarrhoea and vomiting last

In adults and children:

  • diarrhoea usually lasts 5 to 7 days
  • vomiting usually lasts 1 to 2 days

Diarrhoea and vomiting can spread easily

If you have a stomach bug, you could be infectious to others.

You're most infectious from when the symptoms start until 2 days after they've passed. Stay off school or work until the symptoms have stopped for 2 days.

To avoid spreading an infection:

Do:

  • wash your hands with soap and water frequently
  • wash dirty clothing and bedding separately on a hot wash
  • clean toilet seats, flush handles, taps, surfaces and door handles every day

Don't:

  • prepare food for other people, if possible
  • share towels, flannels, cutlery or utensils
  • use a swimming pool until 2 weeks after the symptoms stop

A pharmacist can help if:

  • your baby is under 12 months old and has diarrhoea or vomiting
  • you or your child (over 12 months old) have signs of dehydration - such as dark, smelly pee or peeing less than usual
  • your child has more than 5 bouts of diarrhoea or vomits more than 3 times in 24 hours

They may recommend:

  • oral rehydration sachets that you mix with water and drink
  • medicine to stop diarrhoea for a few hours (like loperamide) - not suitable for young children

Find a pharmacy.

See a GP if you:

  • keep vomiting and are unable to keep fluid down
  • are still dehydrated despite using oral rehydration sachets
  • have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from your bottom
  • have green or yellow vomit
  • have diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days

Take your child to the GP if they:

  • are under 12 months old and have signs of dehydration - such as fewer wet nappies
  • are under 3 months old and have a temperature of 38C or higher
  • are 3 to 6 months old and have a temperature of 39C or higher
  • keep vomiting and are unable to keep fluid down
  • have diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days

Check with the GP before going in. They may suggest a phone check up.

Call NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47 or 111, if available in your area, if you can't get an appointment.

Take your child to the GP urgently if they:

  • still have signs of dehydration despite using oral rehydration sachets
  • have green or yellow vomit
  • have blood in their poo or bleeding from their bottom

Go to A&E if you can't get hold of your GP. Find an A&E department.

Call 999 or go to A&E if you or your child:

  • are vomiting blood or have vomit that looks like ground coffee
  • have a stiff neck and pain when looking at bright lights
  • have a sudden, severe headache or stomach ache
  • may have swallowed something poisonous

Causes of diarrhoea and vomiting

You probably won't know exactly what the cause is, but the main causes of diarrhoea and vomiting are treated in the same way.

They're usually due to:

  • a stomach bug (gastroenteritis)
  • norovirus - also called the "vomiting bug"
  • food poisoning

Other causes of diarrhoea

  • medicines - check the leaflet to see if diarrhoea is a side effect
  • a food intolerance or food allergy
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • coeliac disease
  • diverticular disease

Other causes of vomiting

  • pregnancy
  • migraine
  • labyrinthitis
  • medicines - check the leaflet to see if vomiting is a side effect
  • reflux - where a baby brings feeds back up ("spitting up")
  • other infections - such as a urinary tract infection (UTI)
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The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS Choices.
Last Updated: 01/06/2018 14:28:26