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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Diarrhoea & vomiting in children (gastroenteritis)

Tikotiko me ruaki ki ngā tamariki

Gastroenteritis in an infection of the stomach and bowels. It can cause watery diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting.

The infection is usually due to a virus (rotavirus is the most common) but sometimes bacteria can cause it.

Symptoms can last for up to 10 days.

Gastroenteritis is very easy to spread and is spread by touch.

Treating gastroenteritis

The main treatment is to keep your tamaiti (child) drinking fluids. They need these to replace the fluid lost from the diarrhoea and vomiting. Otherwise, they will become dehydrated. Pēpi (babies) and young tamariki (children) are more prone to dehydration.

Give your tamaiti child clear fluids even if they're vomiting or the diarrhoea is getting worse. Give them small amounts frequently. For example, ¼ cup every 15 minutes or 1 teaspoon (5 ml) in a syringe every minute. Suitable fluids include:

Do not use full strength drinks or sports drinks as they contain too much sugar and can make the diarrhoea worse.

If you're breastfeeding, carry on but feed more often. If your pēpi baby is on formula, continue to give formula feeds. You can offer them clear fluids as well.

Keep giving your tamaiti food if they want to eat. Starchy foods such as white bread, toast, white rice, plain potato and plain biscuits are best. Do not stop food for more than 24 hours.

Your tamaiti will need more rest than usual.

Medicines to stop diarrhoea and vomiting aren't helpful.

Preventing gastroenteritis from spreading

Gastroenteritis is spread by touch so hand washing is the most important thing you can do to prevent it spreading.

Wash and dry your hands before and after handling food and changing nappies or toileting. Wash and dry your child's hands too.

Do not share food and drink.

While your tamaiti has diarrhoea, it's best to keep them away from their daycare, kindergarten or school, as they can pass the illness on to others. They should stay away until they have had no diarrhoea for 48 hours.

Getting help for your tamaiti with gastroenteritis

Take your tamaiti to the doctor if:

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by the South Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed February 2022.

See also:

Diarrhoea and vomiting (Gastroenteritis)

Eating and drinking when you're unwell

Hand hygiene

Page reference: 47582

Review key: HIGAC-12652