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Gastroenteritis

What is Gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis (Gastro) is an infection in the gut, causing diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting (sickness).  Diarrhoea means frequent runny or watery poo.  The vomiting may settle quickly, but the diarrhoea can last up to 10 days.  The infection may also give your child a high temperature and crampy tummy pains. Gastroenteritis is usually caused by a virus, which the body clears on its own without treatment.  It affects all age groups but is more common and can be worse in babies and young children.  The most serious problem in gastroenteritis is dehydration (too much water lost from the body).

What is dehydration?
Dehydration is the loss of fluid, due to vomiting and diarrhoea.  The younger the child, the easier it is for them to become dehydrated.

The important signs of dehydration are:

  • Dry mouth and tongue
  • Sunken eyes
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Unusual sleepiness or lack of energy
  • Fewer wet nappies than usual.

If your child has any of these signs see your doctor.

When to see a doctor:

  • Your child shows signs of dehydration (see above)
  • Your child has a lot of diarrhoea (8-10 watery poos per day)
  • Vomiting is increasing or your child is unable to keep fluids down
  • Your child develops severe stomach pains
  • The diarrhoea has blood in it
  • The diarrhoea continues for more than 7 days
  • If you are concerned for any other reason.

This page was last updated at 11:08AM on August 4, 2021.