Diarrhoea and vomiting

Diarrhoea and vomiting are common in adults, children and babies. You can have them together or on their own.

They're usually caused by a stomach bug and should pass in a few days.

How to treat diarrhoea and vomiting yourself

You can usually treat yourself or your child at home.

The most important thing is to have plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Do

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

Don't

  • do not have fruit juice or fizzy drinks – they can make diarrhoea worse
  • do not make baby formula weaker – use it at its usual strength
  • do not give young children medicine to stop diarrhoea
  • do not give aspirin to children under 16

How long diarrhoea and vomiting last

In adults and children:

  • diarrhoea usually lasts 5 to 7 days
  • vomiting usually lasts 1 to 2 days

Diarrhoea and vomiting can spread easily

If you have a stomach bug, you could be infectious to others.

Important

You're most infectious from when the symptoms start until 2 days after they've passed. Stay off school or work until the symptoms have stopped for 2 days.

To avoid spreading an infection:

Do

  • wash your hands with soap and water frequently
  • wash dirty clothing and bedding separately on a hot wash
  • clean toilet seats, flush handles, taps, surfaces and door handles every day

Don't

  • prepare food for other people, if possible
  • share towels, flannels, cutlery or utensils
  • use a swimming pool until 2 weeks after the symptoms stop
See how to wash your hands
Media last reviewed: 30/03/2017
Next review due: 30/03/2020

A pharmacist can help if:

  • your baby is under 12 months old and has diarrhoea or vomiting
  • you or your child (over 12 months old) have signs of dehydration – such as dark, smelly pee or peeing less than usual
  • your child has more than 5 bouts of diarrhoea or vomits more than 3 times in 24 hours

They may recommend:

  • oral rehydration sachets that you mix with water and drink
  • medicine to stop diarrhoea for a few hours (like loperamide) – not suitable for young children

See a GP if you:

  • keep vomiting and are unable to keep fluid down
  • are still dehydrated despite using oral rehydration sachets
  • have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from your bottom
  • have green or yellow vomit
  • have diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days

Take your child to the GP if they:

  • are under 12 months old and have signs of dehydration – such as fewer wet nappies
  • are under 3 months old and have a temperature of 38C or higher
  • are 3 to 6 months old and have a temperature of 39C or higher
  • keep vomiting and are unable to keep fluid down
  • have diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days

Check with the GP before going in. They may suggest a phone check-up.

Call 111 if you can't get an appointment.

Take your child to the GP urgently if they:

  • still have signs of dehydration despite using oral rehydration sachets
  • have green or yellow vomit
  • have blood in their poo or bleeding from their bottom

Go to A&E if you can't get hold of your GP.

Find an A&E department

Call 999 or go to A&E if you or your child:

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

Causes of diarrhoea and vomiting

You probably won't know exactly what the cause is, but the main causes of diarrhoea and vomiting are treated in the same way.

They're usually due to:

Other causes of diarrhoea
Other causes of vomiting

Page last reviewed: 16/04/2018
Next review due: 16/04/2021

Call 111

If you can't speak to your GP and don't know what to do next.