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Diarrhoea and vomiting

Diarrhoea and vomiting are common in adults, children and babies. They're often caused by a stomach bug and should stop in a few days.

The advice is the same if you have diarrhoea and vomiting together or separately.

Treating diarrhoea and vomiting

You can usually treat yourself or your child at home. The most important thing is to have lots of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Do:

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

Do Not:

  • have fruit juice or fizzy drinks – they can make diarrhoea worse
  • make baby formula weaker – use it as its usual strength
  • give children under 12 medicine to stop diarrhoea
  • give aspirin to children under 16.

In both adults and children, diarrhoea usually stops within 5 to 7 days and vomiting usually stops within 1 or 2 days.

Reducing the spread of diarrhoea and vomiting

These infections are highly contagious and can be transmitted by contact with contaminated surfaces, an infected person or consumption of contaminated food/water.

Follow the 48-hour rule: Stay home from school, work or public places until you have not been sick or had diarrhoea for at least 2 days.

DO:

  • wash your hands with soap and water frequently
  • wash any clothing or bedding that has been contaminated separately on a hot wash
  • clean toilet seats, flush handles, taps, surfaces and door handles every day.

DO NOT:

  • prepare food for other people, if possible
  • share towels, flannels, cutlery or utensils
  • go swimming until 2 weeks after symptoms stop
  • visit GP surgeries, hospitals or residential/nursing/care homes unless advised by a clinical professional.

Help and advice

A pharmacist can help if:

  • you or your child (over 5 years) have signs of dehydration – such as dark, smelly urine or urinating less than usual
  • you need to stop diarrhoea for a few hours.

They may recommend:

  • oral rehydration sachets you mix with water
  • medicine (like loperamide) to stop diarrhoea for a few hours – not suitable for children under 12.

Find a pharmacy

Contact your GP or MEDS if:

  • you’re worried about a baby under 12 months
  • your child stops breast or bottle feeding while they’re ill
  • you or your child still has signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets
  • you or your child have diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days

Call 999 or visit A&E if you or your child:

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

See Related Links for further details and advice.

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