Gastroenteritis is an infection of the gut (intestines).

It causes diarrhoea and may also cause symptoms such as being sick (vomiting) and tummy (abdominal) pain. In most cases the infection clears within a few days, but sometimes it takes longer. The main risk is lack of fluid in the body (dehydration).

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Risks and treatment

The main risk is lack of fluid in the body (dehydration).

The main treatment is to have lots to drink which aims to avoid dehydration. You should also eat as normally as possible. See a doctor if you suspect that you are dehydrating, or if you have any worrying symptoms such as those which are listed below.

In children, the risks and treatments are much the same as they are in adults: try to keep your child eating normally and drinking a lot as they are losing lots of water. This may take lots of encouragement to keep them taking little sips whenever they can.

When to get help (children and adults)

If you’re an adult, seek medical advice if you think you are becoming dehydrated, you're vomiting a lot and can't keep fluids down, or if you notice blood in you poo or vomit. Persistent symptoms, severe abdominal pain, or a high fever are also reasons to call your doctor.

If your child has gastroenteritis, you should see a medical professional if they look dry or are passing very little urine, appear drowsy or confused, are unable to keep fluids down, have blood in their diarrhoea or vomit, or have severe tummy (abdominal) pain. If they are vomiting up all of their fluids, they may need some medication and then some time making sure they are drinking well before going home.

If the medication is not stopping the vomiting or they have lost a lot of fluid they may need to be sent to hospital for some intravenous fluids and monitoring.

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