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Gastroenteritis in Children

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 2 minutes read

A stomach bug causes vomiting and diarrhoea. It's medically known as gastroenteritis, and referred to as food poisoning, if there is a particular meal in the frame. The diarrhoea mostly resolves within 5 to 7 days and the vomiting in 2 to 3 days. 

Symptoms associated with a stomach bug include diarrhoea, stomach pain and cramps, nausea, vomiting, and they may have a mild fever or a headache. Generally children and babies feel fairly well with a stomach bug - they will still want to play and be their usual self, and they may keep their appetite, so trust your instincts if they appear unwell.

Doctor’s advice

What causes stomach bugs?

Stomach bugs are most often viral, but they can also be caused by bacteria and parasites. Rotavirus is the most common gastric virus, with nearly every child in the UK coming across it by the age of 5, and they are given a vaccine in the normal childhood immunisation programme, to protect them. Adenovirus and norovirus can also cause diarrhoea and vomiting.

Bacterial infection can cause fever and bloody diarrhoea, and they may be more unwell. Particular bugs include Campylobacter, E. Coli and Salmonella.

How long does a stomach bug last in children?

Symptoms usually last between 24 and 48 hours, but may last up to 10 days – hopefully with improvement during that time. They can still be contagious a few days after recovery so children should stay off school or nursery and avoid pregnant or immune-compromised people until 48 hours after their symptoms have resolved. Other parents will not thank you for returning too early.

Pharmacist recommended products

Children's tummy bug Dual Combo Health Kit
Effective relief for
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Replenish electrolytes
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Restore fluid balance
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Prevents dehydration
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Supports natural friendly gut flora
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Suitable from birth
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Added vitamin d3 for immune support
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Binds toxins or allergens in the gut
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Eliminates gastric irritants from the body
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Relieves diarrheoa
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Relieves trapped wind
More info
Recommended by pharmacist
Why this Health Kit

Gastroenteritis can occur due to viral infections or food poisoning contaminated by bacteria. In some cases, a food allergy may also be a cause.

Very often, the body's natural response is to clear toxins in the gut and flush them out by causing vomiting and/or diarrhoea to occur. Gastroenteritis can also lead to fever (since the immune system is activated), sweating, and symptoms of abdominal cramps, dehydration, lethargy, and fatigue due to loss of fluid and electrolytes.

This health kit aims to:

  • Relieve the symptoms of diarrhoea, trapped wind and painful bloating
  • Help eliminate allergens and pathogens in the gastrointestinal tract and aid recovery.
  • Restore electrolyte and fluid balance.

O.R.S Hydration Strawberry Soluble Tablets can help replenish fluid and electrolytes lost during bouts of diarrhoea and prevent dehydration. The salts can also help reduce the risk of cramps.

Enterosgel® Kids is an intestinal adsorbent (enterosorbent) that binds toxins, harmful substances, pathogens, and allergens in the GI tract. Clostridium difficile, Shigella, and E.coli toxins can cause diarrhoea by inflaming colon mucosal cells.

Enterosgel can bind bacterial toxins, bile acids, and other GI-disorder-causing substances and viruses, according to a 2019 UK study.

Improving gut health can lead to a reduction in IBS symptoms. After clearing toxins associated with a bout of IBS associated with diarrhoea or a course of antibiotics, it is a good idea to replenish and improve the number of good bacteria.

Note: Always read the information leaflets and specific product information before purchasing, as some products may not be suitable for all patients. This is especially so if you take other medicines or suffer from other medical conditions. Please speak to your local pharmacist, doctor, or another qualified health practitioner if you are unsure about anything.

How is a stomach bug treated in children?

The main treatment for a stomach bug is to keep the child hydrated at all times and encourage plenty of rest, to let their body’s immune system get to work. Babies should continue to feed as usual, older children are encouraged to have regular, small but frequent sips of water to prevent dehydration or you can give them oral rehydration sachets to replace any lost salts. 

Dairy products, sugary foods, spicy and flavourful food should be avoided. Sticking to soft, dry, basic foods like soup or dry toast is advised.

When should I take them to the doctor? 

Vomiting lasting more than 2 days and diarrhoea lasting longer than 7 days should be discussed with your doctor. If your child is vomiting clear fluids for more than 8 hours, is unable to keep fluids down for any prolonged period, they are vomiting blood, has blood in the poo or shows any sign of dehydration, you should seek urgent medical attention.

Signs of dehydration include fewer wet nappies, persistent diarrhoea or vomiting with no signs of improvement, persistent fevers, and lethargy, irritability or appearing drowsy and unable to rouse. 

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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