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.

How to treat diarrhoea and vomiting yourself

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

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 children under 12 medicine to stop diarrhoea
  • do not give aspirin to children under 16

How long diarrhoea and vomiting last

In adults and children:

  • diarrhoea usually stops within 5 to 7 days
  • vomiting usually stops in 1 or 2 days

Diarrhoea and vomiting can spread easily

Important

Stay off school or work until you have not been sick or had diarrhoea for at least 2 days.

To help avoid spreading an infection:

Do

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

Don't

  • do not prepare food for other people, if possible
  • do not share towels, flannels, cutlery or utensils
  • do not use a swimming pool until 2 weeks after the symptoms stop

A pharmacist can help if:

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

They may recommend:

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

Urgent advice: Get advice from 111 now if:

  • you're worried about a baby under 12 months
  • your child stops breast or bottle feeding while they're ill
  • a child under 5 years has signs of dehydration – such as fewer wet nappies
  • you or your child (over 5 years) still have signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets
  • you or your child keep being sick and cannot keep fluid down
  • you or your child have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from the bottom
  • you or your child have diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days

111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

Call 999 or go to 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

Find your nearest A&E

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.

The most common causes are:

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