In this section
Gastroenteritis ('gastro') is a bowel infection which
causes diarrhoea (runny, watery poo) and sometimes
vomiting. The vomiting may settle quickly, but the diarrhoea
can last up to 10 days.
Gastro can be caused by many different germs although the most
common cause of gastro is a viral or bacterial infection. Most
children do not need to take any medicine.
It is more common and severe in babies and young children.
Babies under six months can become ill very quickly because of
the loss of fluid from their body.
If you are breastfeeding, continue to do this
but feed more often. You can give an oral rehydration solution (e.g. GastrolyteTM,
HYDRAlyteTM, Pedialyte or Repalyte)
If bottle feeding, give oral rehydration
solution or clear fluids for the first 12 hours, then give normal
formula in small, but more frequent amounts. Offer babies a drink
every time they vomit.
Give small amounts of clear fluid often - i.e. a few mouthfuls every 15 minutes for all children with
diarrhoea or vomiting and especially if your child is
vomiting a lot. Give older children one cup (around 150 - 200ml) of
fluid for every big vomit or episode of diarrhoea.
Gastrolyte, Hydralyte, Pedialyte and
Repalyte are different types of oral rehydration fluid that can be
used to replace fluids and body salts. These are the best option if
your child is dehydrated. For mild gastro without dehydration you
can also give water or diluted cordial, but do not give
sports drinks, Lucozade, or undiluted lemonade, cordials, or fruit
Your child may refuse food at first. This is not a problem as
long as clear fluids are taken. Doctors now suggest there is no
need to restrict food. Generally, if your child is hungry at any
time, give them the food they feel like eating. Do not stop food
for more than 24 hours.
Developed/reviewed by RCH General
Medicine, Centre for Community Child Health, Emergency
Department and Gastroenterology. First published 2000. Last
reviewed December 2010. Many thanks to the parents who
gave feedback to update this factsheet.