Common ailments

Diarrhoea and sickness

My young son has been sick a few times and has had diarrhoea for a couple of days now and I’m not sure what has caused it, should I go to my GP?

It sounds as though your son has gastroenteritis and although vomiting and diarrhoea must be very unpleasant and distressing for your son, the symptoms should only last between 3 and 5 days and pass without the need for any treatment. However, your son may be at risk of dehydration, especially if he is under the age of 2 years old, so it is very important to make sure that he drinks plenty of water and eats normally after he is rehydrated. With your son’s symptoms carrying on for a few days, even better than water is to get some oral rehydration salt sachets to mix with water from your local pharmacist. These help any fluid he does drink to be absorbed into the body more quickly than just plain water and replace any salts and sugars he has lost in the sickness and diarrhoea. However, if your son has recently been abroad, he has blood or mucus in his stools, he does not pass normal volumes of urine or his symptoms do not improve after seven days, you should contact your GP for advice.

Gastroenteritis in children is usually caused by rotavirus, which is an infection of the stomach and bowel, and is spread if a child does not wash their hands properly after going to the toilet. Make sure that you encourage your son to wash his hands after going to the toilet and before eating, and to disinfect the potty or toilet after each episode of diarrhoea or vomiting, and don’t let your son share towels or flannels.

It is also important that your son stays off school or nursery at least 48 hours after his last episode of vomiting or diarrhoea and that he should not swim in swimming pools for at least two weeks after the symptoms of gastroenteritis have gone away in case of risk of infection of other children and adults.

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