Causes of diarrhoea in children, toddlers & babies can range from infections or inflammation of the gut to food allergies & intolerances 

Diarrhoea is an increase in the frequency, runniness, or volume of faeces that is common in children and babies.

Passing stools more often than normal and passing loose or watery stools can be signs that your child has diarrhoea. Though symptoms usually last only a few days, a child with diarrhoea should be watched closely, as symptoms can suddenly get worse and require medical attention.

Causes of diarrhoea in children, toddlers & babies

• Gastroenteritis or infection of the gut (viruses, such as rotavirus or norovirus are one of the most frequent causes of diarrhoea in children)

• Food allergies and intolerances

• Food poisoning

• Conditions which involve inflammation of the gut

• Another possible cause, which is less common, is coeliac disease.

How is diarrhoea treated?

The most important treatment of diarrhoea in young children is to provide fluids, which will help to prevent dehydration. Ask your pharmacist for advice, they may recommend oral rehydration salts or drinks containing electrolytes.

Continue feeding your baby via breast or bottle. You should try to breastfeed in small feeds more often than usual, particularly if your child is being sick. For babies on formula or solid foods, give them small sips of water between feeds.

You can offer older children food, but they may not feel like eating. Your child may find it easier to start with plain or simple food. If they have no appetite, continue focusing on keeping them hydrated – their appetite will return when they start to recover.

When your child has diarrhoea, avoid giving them certain fluids (undiluted fruit juice, fizzy drinks or sports/energy drinks) that can contain hard-to-digest sugars and cause bloating.

Boots Rehydration Treatment - 6 Sachets

Suitable from 1 year. Contains glucose and various salts called oral electrolytes which act to relieve short term (acute) diarrhoea by replacing lost salts and fluids in order to prevent dehydration. Dissolves in water, with a blackcurrant flavour. Always read the label.

When to take your child with diarrhoea to the GP

Most cases of diarrhoea will go away on its own in around five to seven days, but you should contact your GP or Health Visitor urgently or get advice from 111 if you are worried about a child under 12 months or if your child has:

• Had diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days 

• Diarrhoea and vomiting at the same time 

• Bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from the bottom

• A severe or continuous stomach ache 

• Signs of dehydration such as fewer wet nappies in a child under 5 years

• Signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets in a child over 5 years

• Been sick repeatedly and cannot keep fluid down 

Seek urgent medical attention for your child if they:

• Have a temperature of 38°C or above and are younger than three months old or have a temperature of 39°C or above and are three to six months old

• Are a baby and have had six or more episodes of diarrhoea in the past 24 hours or if they have vomited three times or more in the past 24 hours 

• Are younger than 12 months old and are showing signs of dehydration (such as fewer wet nappies)

• Have persistent diarrhoea

• Are continuously vomiting or have green, yellow or brown vomit that looks like ground coffee

• Might have swallowed something poisonous 

• Have blood in their vomit 

• Have a stiff neck and pain when looking at bright lights

• Have a sudden, severe headache or stomach ache 

• If their symptoms are severe

• If they don't seem to be improving

How to help prevent diarrhoea

• Wash your child's hands thoroughly after they go to the toilet and before eating. Parents should wash their hands after changing babies’ nappies, supervising children at the toilet, going to the toilet themselves, and before handling food

• Infants’ bottles should be sterilised and cleaned

• Meat products should be well cooked and raw meat should not be given to young children

• Meat should be kept separate from other food to prevent contamination

• To prevent the spread of diarrhoea, keep your child off school for 48 hours after symptoms have stopped

Next steps

• Treat your child’s diarrhoea symptoms by allowing them to rest and giving them plenty of fluids

• If diarrhoea persists and they have any of the symptoms listed above, or if you're worried, take them to the GP

• Take preventative measures, such as hand washing and safe food preparation