Learn more about vomiting and diarrhoea: introduction
Diarrhoea and vomiting are common in adults, children and babies. They're often caused by a stomach bug and should stop in a few days.
The advice is the same if you have diarrhoea and vomiting together or separately.
How to treat diarrhoea and vomiting yourself
You can usually treat yourself or your child at home. The most important thing is to have lots of fluids to avoid dehydration.
stay at home and get plenty of rest
drink lots of fluids, such as water or squash – take small sips if you feel sick
carry on breast or bottle feeding your baby – if they're being sick, try giving small feeds more often than usual
give babies on formula or solid foods small sips of water between feeds
eat when you feel able to – you don't need to eat or avoid any specific foods
take paracetamol if you're in discomfort – check the leaflet before giving it to your child
do not have fruit juice or fizzy drinks – they can make diarrhoea worse
do not make baby formula weaker – use it at its usual strength
do not give children under 12 medicine to stop diarrhoea
do not give aspirin to children under 16
How long diarrhoea and vomiting last
In adults and children:
- diarrhoea usually stops within 5 to 7 days
- vomiting usually stops in 1 or 2 days
Diarrhoea and vomiting can spread easily
Stay off school or work until you have not been sick or had diarrhoea for at least 2 days.
To help avoid spreading an infection:
wash your hands with soap and water frequently
wash any clothing or bedding that has poo or vomit on it separately on a hot wash
clean toilet seats, flush handles, taps, surfaces and door handles every day
do not prepare food for other people, if possible
do not share towels, flannels, cutlery or utensils
do not use a swimming pool until 2 weeks after the symptoms stop
A pharmacist can help if:
- you or your child (over 5 years) have signs of dehydration – such as dark, smelly pee or peeing less than usual
- you need to stop diarrhoea for a few hours
They may recommend:
- oral rehydration sachets you mix with water to make a drink
- medicine to stop diarrhoea for a few hours (like loperamide) – not suitable for children under 12
Get advice from 111 now if:
- you're worried about a baby under 12 months
- your child stops breast or bottle feeding while they're ill
- a child under 5 years has signs of dehydration – such as fewer wet nappies
- you or your child (over 5 years) still have signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets
- you or your child keep being sick and cannot keep fluid down
- you or your child have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from the bottom
- you or your child have diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.
Other ways to get help
Get an urgent GP appointment
A GP may be able to help you.
Ask your GP practice for an urgent appointment.
Check with the GP surgery before going in. A GP may speak to you on the phone.
Call 999 or go to A&E if you or your child:
- vomit blood or have vomit that looks like ground coffee
- have bright green or yellow vomit
- might have swallowed something poisonous
- have a stiff neck and pain when looking at bright lights
- have a sudden, severe headache or stomach ache
What we mean by severe pain
- Severe pain:
- always there and so bad it’s hard to think or talk
- you can’t sleep
- it’s very hard to move, get out of bed, go to the bathroom, wash or dress
- Moderate pain:
- always there
- makes it hard to concentrate or sleep
- you can manage to get up, wash or dress
- Mild pain:
- comes and goes
- is annoying but doesn’t stop you doing things like going to work
Causes of diarrhoea and vomiting
You probably won't know exactly what the cause is, but the main causes of diarrhoea and vomiting are treated in the same way.
The most common causes are:
Other causes of diarrhoea or vomiting
Diarrhoea can also be caused by:
- medicines – check the leaflet to see it's a side effect
- a food intolerance or food allergy
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- inflammatory bowel disease
- coeliac disease
- diverticular disease
Vomiting can also be caused by:
Learn more about vomiting and diarrhoea: vomiting
Feeling sick (nausea) is common and usually goes away on its own. There are some things you can try that might help.
Things that may help you stop feeling sick
get plenty of fresh air
distract yourself – for example, listen to music or watch a film
take sips of a cold drink – some people find fizzy drinks best
drink ginger or peppermint tea
eat foods containing ginger – such as ginger biscuits
eat smaller, more frequent meals
do not eat or cook strong-smelling food
do not eat hot, fried or greasy food
do not eat too quickly
do not have a large drink with meals
do not lie down soon after eating
do not wear clothes that are tight around your waist or tummy
If you're also being sick (vomiting), you could become dehydrated. See what to do if you're vomiting.
See a GP if you:
- do not feel better in a few days
- often feel sick (it keeps coming back)
The GP can look for the cause and suggest treatments.
They may prescribe anti-sickness medicine if needed.
Call 111 for advice if you cannot see a GP.
Call 999 if you suddenly feel sick and have:
- chest pain that feels tight or heavy
- pain that spreads to your arms, back, neck or jaw
- shortness of breath
This could be a heart attack.
Common causes of feeling sick
Lots of things can make you feel sick.
Any other symptoms you have may give you an idea of the cause. But do not self-diagnose – see a GP if you're worried.
|Other symptoms||Possible cause|
|Diarrhoea or vomiting||norovirus or food poisoning|
|Headache and a high temperature||an infection, such as flu|
|Heartburn or bloating after eating||acid reflux|
|Headache and sensitivity to light or sound||migraine|
|Dizziness||labyrinthitis or vertigo|
Other reasons for feeling sick include:
Do not worry if you're not sure what the cause is. Try the things that may stop you feeling sick and see a GP if you do not feel better in a few days.