Symptoms of gastroenteritis in children 

The main symptoms of gastroenteritis are diarrhoea and vomiting. Your child may also have some additional symptoms caused by the infection, such as a high temperature (fever) and a tummy ache.

The vomiting will usually stop within one to three days, and the diarrhoea will usually pass within five to seven days, although it can last up to two weeks in some children.

Signs of dehydration

Gastroenteritis can also cause dehydration, which can be more serious than the infection itself. It is very important to be aware of the symptoms of dehydration so that you can recognise them in your child.

Symptoms of dehydration can include:

  • dry mouth and eyes
  • no tears produced when the child cries
  • sunken appearance of the eyes
  • irritability 
  • urinating less frequently or having fewer wet nappies (no wet nappies for eight hours)
  • drowsiness or reduced consciousness
  • cold hands and feet
  • pale or blotchy skin
  • a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on a baby's head)
  • fast breathing

Contact your GP immediately if you think your child is dehydrated. If this is not possible, call NHS 111 or your local out-of-hours service for advice.

Signs of a more serious illness

Gastroenteritis shares many of the initial symptoms of more serious childhood conditions. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms that suggest your child has a more serious condition.

Signs and symptoms to look out for are:

  • a temperature of 38°C (100.4°F) or higher in children younger than three months
  • a temperature of 39°C (102.2°F) or higher in children older than three months
  • shortness of breath
  • abnormally rapid breathing
  • a change in their normal mental state, such as appearing confused
  • stiff neck
  • a swelling in the soft part of their head (fontanelle)
  • a blotchy red rash, which, unlike most other rashes, does not fade when you put a glass against it
  • blood or mucus in their stools (faeces)
  • green vomit
  • severe stomach pain
  • swelling of their stomach 
  • vomiting for longer than three days
  • diarrhoea that lasts longer than a week
  • symptoms of dehydration that persist or get worse, despite treatment with fluids and oral rehydration solutions

Contact your GP for advice as soon as possible if you notice any of the above signs and symptoms. Call NHS 111 or your local out-of-hours service if you cannot get hold of your GP.

Page last reviewed: 28/03/2014

Next review due: 28/03/2016