Surviving Gastroenteritis in Kids: Essential Tips for Dealing with Diarrhoea and Vomiting

You thought it was weird when your child said no to a cupcake, and now as they clutch their tummy and vomit onto the floor you suddenly understand.

Strap yourself in, it’s going to be a rough 24-48 hours as Gastro has hit the house.


D’s and V’s

In hospital lingo we call gastro D’s and V’s (diarrhoea and vomiting) and for most kids that’s all it is for a few days and then life can return to normal. Except for the 7 loads of washing that has now backed up. 

Gastro is an intestinal infection that leads to diarrhoea (runny, watery stools) and sometimes vomiting. While vomiting may subside quickly, diarrhoea can persist for up to 10 days.

Various germs can cause gastro, but viral infections are the most frequent culprits. Most children do not require medication for gastro; however, it’s crucial that they stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration.

Gastro spreads easily and tends to be more common and severe in babies and young children. Infants under six months are particularly susceptible to dehydration and should be examined by a GP if they exhibit symptoms of gastro.

Common signs of gastro are;

  • Nausea and vomiting (this usually starts prior to the Diarrhoea)
  • Diarrhoea (or loose/watery poo)
  • Stomach pain and cramps
  • Fever

Steps to managing gastro at home

  1. Activate survival mode: Lower those expectations, don’t worry about screen time and the house doesn’t have to be picture perfect (I mean who visits when you have a gastro outbreak anyway!)
  2. Wash, wash, wash your hands – the hand sanitising gel won’t cut it this time. Wash before and after touching your child with both soap and water.
  3. Repeat the mantra “Keep up the fluids” this means frequent sips of fluids (even if they are vomiting it up after. I remember in my early days as a paediatric nurse, a paediatrician told me that even if they have just vomited we should be offering fluids. So just keep it up to avoid dehydration.
  4. Offer oral rehydration solutions or icy poles, breast milk (if still producing), formula or water, diluted apple juice can also be offered. Do try to avoid sugary soft drinks and sport drinks as they can make the dehydration worse 
  • For breastfed babies over 6 months, offer more frequent feeds and after every vomit, you can give oral rehydration fluid or water in the first 12 hours but don’t continue this beyond 12 hours without a review from a medical professional
  • In formula fed babies over 6 months you can replace their formula with oral rehydration for the first 12 hours, but as above – please see a medical professional after the 12 hours if you think they still need this. Offer frequent bottles and after every vomit.
  • For older children offer small sips every 15 minutes, this is especially important if your child is frequently vomiting. Don’t worry if they go off their food while they are sick, fluids are the most important thing right now.
  1. Don’t give over the counter diarrhoea medications like gastro stop to children these are harmful for kids.
  2. Stay at home and keep other children away until the diarrhoea has stopped. If those other children live in your house, try and keep them away – but we know this is pretty hard to do. Just do your best!
  3. Disinfect surfaces and door handles and wash bedding and towels that have been exposed to body fluids in a hot wash whilst gastro is rife in your house.

Seeking medical attention

  • Children under 6 months of age should be seen by a GP regardless as they can be most at risk of quick deterioration from dehydration
  • If your child is not drinking any fluids 
  • If they are vomiting frequently and unable to keep any fluids down
  • The vomit is green
  • They have signs of being dehydrated e.g.

    • Less wet nappies
    • Not going to the toilet much
    • Dark yellow or brown coloured wee or wee with a strong smell 
    • Feeling dizzy or unable to walk
    • Dry lips and mouth
  • If they have more than 8-10 watery poos in a day (or 2-3 large poos in a day)
  • If there is no improvement to their diarrhoea after 10 days
  • Complaining of bad stomach pain
  • If you are concerned and fee

  • l your child is unwell.


The other side

You will know that things are starting to get better when your child starts to get their appetite back. It’s a good idea to start them off on what we call the bland diet. This is things like plain biscuits, plain toast or bread, rice, potatoes or jelly.

If you are at any point unsure, Nurse on Call 1300 60 60 24 is a fantastic 24 hour resource for Victorian’s along with the Victorian Virtual ED 

Gastroenteritis can be a challenging experience for both children and parents, but with the right knowledge and care, you can help your child recover quickly and comfortably. Remember, keeping your child hydrated is crucial, and using oral rehydration solutions can be particularly effective. Avoid sugary drinks and be mindful of the signs of dehydration, especially in infants and young children. If your child’s symptoms persist or worsen, don’t hesitate to consult your GP. By staying informed and prepared, you can confidently survive the ups and downs of gastroenteritis.

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