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Vomiting & Diarrhoea in Babies & Children

Vomiting & Diarrhoea in Babies & Children
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Gastroenteritis is one of the most common causes of vomiting and diarrhoea in babies and young children. It is an infection of the gut usually caused by a virus or bacteria. Vomiting usually lasts for one to two days and stops within three days. Diarrhoea usually lasts for five to seven days and in most cases stops within two weeks.

Causes of Vomiting

  • Infections like meningitis, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections
  • Gastro-oesophageal reflux
  • Milk intolerance or food allergies
  • Conditions that affect the intestines, such as pyloric stenosis or intussusception
  • Strangulated hernia
  • Appendicitis

Call your GP immediately if your child has:

  • Vomited more than 3 times in the past 24 hours
  • Been vomiting for more than 3 days
  • Shown signs of dehydration
  • Has a high temperature of 38°C for babies under 3 months, or 39°C for babies over 3 months
  • Severe tummy pain
  • Bloody or green vomit

Vomiting can cause your child to become dehydrated. It's important that they drink plenty of fluids. Ask your pharmacist about an oral rehydration solution. Take your child to your GP if you're worried that they're becoming dehydrated.

Signs of severe dehydration in babies include:

  • Fewer wet nappies
  • Drowsiness or being hard to wake
  • Pale or blotchy skin
  • Cold hands and feet

Babies at increased risk of dehydration:

  • Young babies under 1 year old (and especially the under 6 months)
  • Babies born at a low birth weight
  • Those who have stopped drinking or breastfeeding during the illness

Children at higher risk of dehydration:

  • Children younger than one year, particularly those younger than six months.
  • Infants who were of low birth weight.
  • Children who have had more than five bouts of diarrhoea in the previous 24 hours.
  • Children who have vomited more than twice in the previous 24 hours.
  • Children who have not been offered or have not been able to tolerate supplementary fluids.
  • Infants who usually breastfeed and have stopped breastfeeding during the illness
  • Children with signs of malnutrition

Reduce the spread of the infection

  • Clean surfaces well using detergent and hot water
  • Wash soiled bedding and clothes at a high temperature
  • Wash or throw away any cleaning equipment used
  • Never let people who are feeling unwell prepare food
  • Make sure your sick child never shares towels with others

What is rotavirus disease?

Rotavirus is a viral infection which causes diarrhoea and vomiting in babies and young children. It is very infectious. It is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in children in Ireland under the age of 5 years. It is most common in the Spring and Winter.

Most children will recover at home but some need to be admitted to hospital. Every year in Ireland almost 1000 children under the age of 5 are admitted to hospital with rotavirus infection. The average length of time they spend in hospital is 5 days. Rotavirus is very infectious and can spread easily. It can be spread through hand to mouth contact, such as from touching toys, surfaces, dirty nappies or can be spread through the air from coughing and sneezing.

Symptoms of Rota Virus:

  • Rotavirus causes diarrhoea which can be severe
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Low-grade fever
  • Symptoms occur 1 – 3 days after being exposed to the infection
  • Symptoms can last approximately 3-8 days

Treating vomiting in babies and children - HSE.ie
Diarrhoea and vomiting - NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Diarrhoea and vomiting in babies | NCT
Rotavirus - HSE.ie
Vomiting in children and babies | NHS inform
NHS_Diarrhoea_and_Vomiting_Advice_Sheet_update.pdf (what0-18.nhs.uk)