Diarrhoea & Vomiting (Gastroenteritis)

Information for parents, guardians and carers.

Paediatric Emergency Department Tel: 01473 702239


Paediatric Assessment Unit (PAU) Tel: 01473 702198


Bergholt Ward Tel: 01473 702194

Signs and symptoms

Acute gastroenteritis, or a tummy bug, is one of the most common illnesses in childhood.

The most common symptoms are:

• sudden attack of diarrhoea (runny poo);

• vomiting;

• loss of appetite;

• fever; and

• stomach ache.

When should I be concerned?

If your baby or child has any of the following symptoms, you should take the recommended course of action:

If your baby or child
  • has sunken eyes and/ or a sunken soft spot
  • is unresponsive and very sleepy;
  • is breathing fast;
  • has not passed urine in 12 hours; or
  • has lots of blood in his or her poo, bright green vomit or is in severe pain:


You need urgent help.

Call 999 or go straight to your nearest Emergency Department.

If your baby or child

  • has symptoms which are getting worse;
  • feeds less than 50% of his or her usual amount;
  • is passing less urine than normal;
  • is vomiting more than three times in 24 hours; or
  • has a temperature above 39°C:


You need to see a doctor or nurse today.
Please ring your GP’s surgery, out-of-hours GP service or call NHS 111.

If none of the above factors are present


Care for your baby at home using advice in this leaflet.

More Information

Gastroenteritis will get better on its own. A small number of children become dehydrated whilst they have gastroenteritis. Younger children and babies are most at risk.

Signs of dehydration are:

  • dry lips, eyes, mouth;
  • drowsiness;
  • excessive thirst;
  • pale colour;
  • sunken eyes;
  • less urine passed;
  • cold hands and feet;
  • fast breathing; and
  • sunken soft spot (in babies).

If your child has no signs of dehydration, he or she can be cared for at home.

If your child has diarrhoea only:

  • give him or her light plain food such as toast, crackers, porridge or pasta;
  • you should continue breastfeeding;
    • use oral rehydration solution (ORS) drinks as a supplement to his or her usual drinks; and
  • give your child a drink of ORS after each runny poo.

If your child has both vomiting and diarrhoea:

  • withhold his or her normal diet;
  • don’t give fizzy drinks or fruit juice;
  • if there are signs of dehydration, see a healthcare professional; and
  • if there are no signs of dehydration, use ORS at home – give small sips every five minutes.

Oral rehydration solution is specially formulated to replace lost fluid quickly.

It contains salt and sugar, which water does not. It can be bought at a chemist or supermarket and common brands are Dioralyte™ and Gastrolyte® .

The solutions can be diluted with weak squash to make them taste better for children.

Most viruses that cause gastroenteritis are contagious. Your child may have been contagious before they began to show symptoms of vomiting or diarrhoea, and therefore may have spread the virus already.

To try to prevent further spread of the virus:

  • wash your hands regularly, especially after changing nappies or going to the toilet;
  • sterilise bottles and utensils well;
  • your child should not attend school, nursery or child care until they have had no symptoms of vomiting or diarrhoea for 48 hours;
  • your child should not swim in swimming pools for two weeks after they have had diarrhoea;
  • your child should use his or her own towel while unwell, which should be washed at 60°C regularly; and
  • your child should avoid kissing contact with people you know are unwell.