Diarrhoea and vomiting is common in adults, children and babies. It can be unpleasant and, for children, sometimes distressing, but often does not last for long.
What are the causes of diarrhoea?
There are many possible causes for diarrhoea and sickness, although sometimes the reason may not be known. These include:
• A stomach bug, or gastroenteritis
• Viruses, such as norovirus, the flu and rotavirus. Rotavirus is the most common cause of acute diarrhoea in children. Acute diarrhoea is defined as more than three loose or watery bowel movements in a day. Norovirus, also called 'the winter vomiting bug', is a different stomach bug that causes vomiting and diarrhoea and usually lasts about two days
• Food poisoning. Symptoms of food poisoning usually begin within a few days of eating the food that triggered the infection. Symptoms can also start within a few hours or not for a few weeks
• Medicines. Be sure to check the leaflet to see if diarrhoea is a side effect
Other symptoms associated with diarrhoea & sickness
Other symptoms may accompany diarrhoea and sickness, depending on the cause. Some of these symptoms include:
• Stomach cramps
• Nausea (feeling sick)
• Loss of appetite
If you’re experiencing symptoms such as the inability to keep fluids down, bloody diarrhoea or bleeding, green or yellow vomit, diarrhoea for more than seven days, or vomiting for more than two days, consult your GP.
How are diarrhoea & sickness treated?
The most important thing when it comes to treating diarrhoea and vomiting is to get enough fluids and avoid dehydration. In most cases diarrhoea should clear up within a few days without treatment. Your pharmacist may advise you use an oral rehydration sachet if you’re at particular risk of dehydration. There are several other methods of treatment, such as:
• Staying at home and getting sufficient rest. Staying at home for at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea can help prevent spreading it to others
• Drink lots of fluids. As symptoms improve, you can start eating. Soft, bland food may be most appealing while you're still feeling nauseous
• Consider taking painkillers if you’re in pain or discomfort
• Loperamide – this is a medicine that should stop diarrhoea within a few hours. Ask your pharmacist if this is suitable for you as it isn't suitable for everyone, including young children
There are several measures you can take to help prevent diarrhoea and sickness and to avoid spreading an infection. You should:
• Regularly wash your hands with soap and water
• Make sure food is fully cooked and served hot
• Avoid unwashed or unpeeled fruits and vegetables
• Clean taps, toilets, surfaces and door handles each day
• Frequently wash bedding and clothing
When should I visit my GP?
You should visit your GP if you're experiencing any of the following:
• Inability to keep fluids down
• Bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from the anus
• Green or yellow vomit
• Diarrhoea for more than seven days
• Vomiting for more than two days
• If your child is unwell and you're worried
• Treat acute diarrhoea or vomiting by getting rest and drinking fluids
• Speak to your pharmacist or GP about which medicines may help
• If diarrhoea lasts more than seven days or vomiting lasts more than two days, you should visit your GP
• Take measures to prevent spreading diarrhoea and sickness, such as washing your hands, clothes, bedding, and cleaning door handles