Symptoms associated with diarrhoea 

Diarrhoea is where you frequently pass watery or loose poo. Some people may also have other symptoms, depending on the cause.

Associated symptoms can include:

  • stomach cramps
  • nausea and vomiting
  • headache
  • loss of appetite

The excessive loss of water in your poo can also sometimes lead to dehydration, which can be serious if not recognised and treated quickly.

Signs of dehydration

Signs of dehydration in children can include:

  • irritability or drowsiness
  • passing urine infrequently
  • pale or mottled skin
  • cold hands and feet
  • they look or feel increasingly unwell

Signs of dehydration in adults can include:

  • tiredness and a lack of energy
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • feeling lightheaded
  • dizziness
  • dry tongue
  • sunken eyes
  • muscle cramps
  • rapid heartbeat

Read more about the symptoms of dehydration.

When to seek medical advice

Contact your GP or call NHS 111 for advice if you are concerned about yourself or your child.

You should also contact your GP in the situations outlined below, as they may mean that you or your child has, or is at risk of, a more serious problem.

Babies

You should contact your GP or health visitor urgently if your baby has had six or more episodes of diarrhoea in the past 24 hours, or if they have vomited three times or more in the past 24 hours.

You should also seek advice if your baby has any symptoms of dehydration.

Children

Contact your GP if your child has: 

  • had six or more episodes of diarrhoea in the past 24 hours
  • diarrhoea and vomiting at the same time
  • watery poo
  • blood in their poo
  • a severe or continuous stomach ache
  • symptoms of dehydration

You should also contact your GP if your child has persistent diarrhoea. Most cases will pass in five to seven days.

Adults

Contact your GP if you have diarrhoea and: 

  • there is blood in your poo
  • you are vomiting persistently
  • you've lost a lot of weight
  • you have passed a large amount of very watery diarrhoea
  • it occurs at night and is disturbing your sleep
  • you have recently taken antibiotics or been treated in hospital
  • you have symptoms of dehydration
  • your poo is dark or black – this may be a sign of bleeding inside your stomach

You should also contact your GP if you have persistent diarrhoea. Most cases in adults will pass in two to four days.

Page last reviewed: 26/11/2014

Next review due: 26/11/2016