What causes it
Many types of illnesses and medicines can cause your child's vomiting or diarrhoea. Most often vomiting and diarrhoea are caused by a germ called a virus.
About the condition
Vomiting and diarrhoea are the body's way of getting rid of an infection or telling us that something is wrong. Infection by a virus is usually mild and does not last longer than 1 week.
Your child should get better if he or she gets lots of rest, liquids, and good foods.
Sometimes however, your child's illness may get serious. That can happen because vomiting and diarrhoea take water and salts away from your child's body. If your child does not replace the water and salts by drinking the right liquids, he or she can become dry. This is called dehydration.
Dehydration can be very serious if your child is a baby or is very young
When should your child see a doctor?
Your child should see a doctor if he or she has any of the warning signs for serious vomiting or diarrhoea.
The warning signs can be different for each child. Watch your child closely. Pay attention to things that you think are different about your child's behaviour.
See a doctor if your child has ANY of the WARNING SIGNS in this list:
- Signs of dehydration:
- No tears when crying
- Sunken eyes
- Less than 5 wet diapers in 1 day
- Dry skin, mouth, and tongue
- Sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on your child's head if he or she is less than 18 months old)
- Not willing to drink
- Vomiting often for more than 4 to 6 hours
- More than 6 large, watery diarrhoeas in 1 day
- Stomach pain that is severe and does not stop
- Fast breathing
- Very sleepy or very fussy
- Cool or grayish skin
- Severe head or neck pain
- Green vomitus
- Blood in the vomit or diarrhoea
- Bringing the knees up to stomach and crying
- Fever over 39°C, or 102.2°F, for longer than 12 hours
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
Do medicines help?
Using medicine to stop vomiting or diarrhoea may harm your child. Certain medications used for adults are dangerous for children.
Do not give your child medicines that:
- you can buy off the shelf in a drugstore (for example, Gravol, Imodium, Kaopectate).
- were ordered or prescribed for another person.
- were ordered for an illness your child had before.
Your child does not need antibiotics for most illnesses that cause vomiting and diarrhoea. (Antibiotics are medicines that fight some infections.) Antibiotics do not kill viruses.
Oral rehydration therapy is a way to help your child when he or she has vomiting or diarrhoea. This therapy has 2 simple rules:
RULE 1: Give your child a special liquid called an oral electrolyte solution to prevent serious dehydration
(Dehydration happens when your child's body loses too much water and salts.)
For the first 6 hours make sure your child gets at least the right amount for his or her age.
What is an oral electrolyte solution?
An oral electrolyte solution is a liquid that has exactly the right amount of water, sugar, and salts. You can buy this solution in most drugstores in different forms:
- drinks, such as Pedialyte
- freezies, such as Hydralyte
- a powder that you must mix with water, such as Repalyte or Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS)
Warning. You must mix the powders exactly as the instructions on the package say. This means you must use measuring spoons or measuring cups to measure the powder and the liquid. Not following these instructions may harm your child.
If your child is less than 6 months old, give 60 to 90 mL every hour.
- 60 to 90 mL is the same amount as 12 to 18 teaspoons
If your child is 6 months to 2 years old, give 90 to 125 mL every hour.
- 90 to 125 mL is the same amount as 18 to 25 teaspoons
If your child is 2 years or older, give 125 to 250 mL every hour.
- 125 to 250 mL is the same amount as 4 to 8 ounces
If you are breastfeeding, do not stop. Feed your child for a shorter time and more often. Breast milk is the best liquid for your child.
If your child is vomiting, use a teaspoon or syringe to give regular sips of liquid. Give your child 5 mL of liquid, which is 1 teaspoon, every 1 to 5 minutes.
When your child starts to feel better, you can give larger volumes, but less often. Make sure that your child drinks the amount of liquid he or she needs for his or her age.
After 24 hours, give your child the oral electrolyte solution only after each watery diarrhea.
Do not let your child take a large drink, even if he or she is very thirsty. Large drinks may make your child's vomiting worse.
RULE 2: Feed your child healthy foods
Feeding your child a healthy diet will help your child's fight against infection. It will also help to heal his or her digestive system and prevent loss of weight.
Stop giving him or her food solids for 6 to 12 hours ONLY if your child is vomiting.
If your child has diarrhea, do not stop feeding your child.
Every 3 to 4 hours, give your child small amounts of food that he/she likes.
Here is a list of a variety of good food that you should feed your child.
Good Foods: Do feed your child
- Breast milk, regular milk, or formula. Do not further dilute the milk.
- Starchy foods, such as rice, potatoes, noodles, toast, and crackers
- Cereals, such as rice or wheat cereal, and oatmeal
- Protein, such as boiled or baked meat, fish, and chicken, and soya and eggs
- Vegetables with no added butter
- Fruits not packed in syrup
Bad Foods: Do not feed your child
- Fruit juice or soft drinks
- Ice cream
- Fatty food such as french fries, hamburgers,
- and butter
- Spicy food
Post Op Care/Care tips
You can help to lower the chances of your child getting sick by:
- Washing your hands after touching raw meat, chicken, or fish.
- Keeping raw meats and half eaten food in th refrigerator.
- Not feeding your child undercooked meat.
- Throwing away eggs with cracked shells. Do not feed your child raw eggs.
- Using different cutting boards for raw meats and other food.
You can prevent your child's illness from spreading by:
- Keeping your child at home until the vomiting and diarrhoea stops.
- Washing your hands after changing diapers, using the toilet and before making and eating food.
- Not sharing eating utensils, such as forks, knives, spoons, and chopsticks, or toothbrushes or drinking cups. If your child puts toys in his or her mouth, do not let him or her share toys.
You can protect your child's bottom by:
- Changing your child's diapers often.
- Washing your child's bottom with soap and water. Pat it dry or let it dry in the air. Do not use baby wipes.
- Using a barrier cream (e.g. Drapolene) on your child's bottom.