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Sickness and Diarrhoea

Sickness bugs (gastroenteritis) where a person vomits and / or has diarrhoea and has tummy pains are usually caused by a virus or a  bacteria.

They are quite common; this is partly because they are very easy to pass from one person to another.

It is not nice to see your child feeling so unwell. Luckily most people will be better within a week or even less.

Doctors can’t do much to help with most types of sickness bug – the best thing to do is stay home and let it run its course

It is important that if you have this you stay away from the GP surgery or A&E if possible because you are very likely to pass the bug onto others around you.

  • • Offer plenty to drink – to replace fluids being lost when they are sick or have diarrhoea
    • Offer drinks even if they are sick again shortly after
    • Offer breastfed babies feeds often
    • Offer formula fed babies feeds as usual – do not ‘water down’ formula milk
    • Avoid fizzy drinks, and fruit juices
    • Let them eat if they are hungry – but keep it plain – bread, pasta, rice
    • If they have tummy aches and pains they can have paracetamol
    • Your child will want you close by so you can comfort them and give cuddles


  • Dehydration is when your body is passing out more fluids than it is taking in – through vomit, diarrhoea or sweat.
    Being hydrated is essential for the body to function. When you are being sick or have diarrhoea your body is losing the important salts and chemicals it needs. This is one of the reasons it makes you feel so unwell
    There are things you can try to treat early dehydration at home and replace the salts and chemicals.
    You need to keep a close eye on your child in case the dehydration gets worse and needs medical attention.

    Signs of dehydration:

    • Feeling thirsty
    • Dry eyes, mouth &cracked lips
    • Dark coloured pee
    • Not peeing often – less than 4 wet nappies / big pees in a day
    • You cannot get your child to take any fluids
    • Babies may have a sunken ‘soft spot’ (fontanelle)
    • Drowsiness
    • Fast Breathing
    • Fast beating heart

  • Early signs:
    • Continue to offer fluids little and often – you could try offering from a spoon
    • Try ice lollies for older children
    • Use diluted Rehydration Powders your Pharmacist can give you some advice on this

    Most people will recover using these measures

    When to Seek More Help….

    How quickly you should seek advice depends in part on how old your child is and any additional needs they may already have.
    The information below is a guide, but you know your child best - ask for help if you are worried. There is always someone to give you advice at 111
    If you think your child has become dangerously ill you should call 999

    It Is an Emergency if your Baby or Child;
    • Is very drowsy, difficult to wake
    • Has blood in their poo or sick – blood can be very red (fresh) or very dark brown / red (old)
    • Have green or yellow vomit
    • Has / appears to be in very bad pain
    • Does not like bright light
    • May have swallowed something poisonous
    • Their condition seems to be getting worse quickly

    You should contact 111 or your GP when;

    Babies Up to 1 Year
    • Have signs of dehydration
    • Have a temperature above 38 degrees
    • Have 5 or more lots of diarrhoea in 24 hours
    • Are being sick for 12 hours or more

    Up to Two Years
    • Have signs of dehydration
    • 5 or more lots of Diarrhoea in 24 hours
    • Being sick for 24 hours or more

    Over Two Years
    • Signs of dehydration – not helped by taking oral rehydration powders or any fluids
    • Being sick for more than two days
    • Having diarrhoea for more than 7 days

  • You can get just diarrhoea, or just vomiting or you can get both together. Vomiting usually passes after about 1 to 2 days. Diarrhoea will usually be gone after 5 to 7 days.

    The bug can mean you are infectious to others a little before this and after this – so the recommendations are that you do not return to nursery, school or work until 48 hours after the last bout of sickness or diarrhoea – to reduce the risk of it passing around.

    It is very important, if at all possible, you stay away from people who are more likely to be made very poorly by a bug. This would include the very old, and the very young and those who already have health problems.
    You shouldn’t visit anyone in a hospital or nursing home or attend hospital appointments until 48 hours without symptoms have passed by.


  • • Wash your hands really well with warm soapy water. There is a child friendly video on handwashing here This is the BEST way to stop spread
    • Wash them every time you clean up any sickness or diarrhoea
    • Wash them before and after preparing food
    • Wash them after going to the toilet
    • You can use anti-bacterial hand rubs too – this should not be instead of hand washing
    • Wash all bed linen and towels on a hot wash
    • Wipe down kitchen surfaces with a bleach based cleaner
    • Wipe down toilets and hand basins and door handles with a bleach based cleaner
    • Stay away from nursery, school or work for 48 hours after you have stopped being sick or having diarrhoea
    • Don’t go swimming until symptom free for two weeks


Who can help?

For support or advice young people, families and professionals can contact :

Your Local Pharmacist. Find a local one here

Call 111 – they can reassure you and advise if you need more medical help

Just One Number for Norfolk Children and Young People’s Health Services Tel: 0300 300 0123 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Saturday 9am-1pm.

Parents can use Parentline Text messaging service: 07520 631590

Young people aged 11-19 can text Chat Health on 07480635060

Other parents who are going through or have been through this before can be a big help to you, friends or family, or you could join our online forum to speak to Norfolk Parents

CLICK HERE to find out more

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