Adult Minor Illness

Diarrhoea and vomiting are common in adults, children and babies. They’re often caused by a stomach bug and should stop in a few days.
The advice is the same if you have diarrhoea and vomiting together or separately.

How to treat diarrhoea and vomiting yourself
You can usually treat yourself or your child at home. The most important thing is to have lots of fluids to avoid dehydration.
– stay at home and get plenty of rest
– drink lots of fluids, such as water or squash – take small sips if you feel sick
– carry on breast or bottle feeding your baby – if they’re being sick, try giving small feeds more often than usual
– give babies on formula or solid foods small sips of water between feeds
– eat when you feel able to – you don’t need to eat or avoid any specific foods
– take paracetamol if you’re in discomfort – check the leaflet before giving it to your child
– do not have fruit juice or fizzy drinks – they can make diarrhoea worse
– do not make baby formula weaker – use it at its usual strength
– do not give children under 12 medicine to stop diarrhoea
– do not give aspirin to children under 16

How long diarrhoea and vomiting last
In adults and children:
– diarrhoea usually stops within 5 to 7 days
– vomiting usually stops in 1 or 2 days

Diarrhoea and vomiting can spread easily
– Stay off school or work until you have not been sick or had diarrhoea for at least 2 days.

To help avoid spreading an infection:
wash your hands with soap and water frequently
– wash any clothing or bedding that has poo or vomit on it separately on a hot wash
– clean toilet seats, flush handles, taps, surfaces and door handles every day
– do not prepare food for other people, if possible
– do not share towels, flannels, cutlery or utensils
– do not use a swimming pool until 2 weeks after the symptoms stop

A pharmacist can help if:
– you or your child (over 5 years) have signs of dehydration – such as dark, smelly pee or peeing less than usual
– you need to stop diarrhoea for a few hours
They may recommend:
– oral rehydration sachets you mix with water to make a drink
– medicine to stop diarrhoea for a few hours (like loperamide) – not suitable for children under 12

Get an urgent GP appointment if:
– you’re worried about a baby under 12 months
– your child stops breast or bottle feeding while they’re ill
– a child under 5 years has signs of dehydration – such as fewer wet nappies
– you or your child (over 5 years) still have signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets
– you or your child keep being sick and cannot keep fluid down
– you or your child have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from your bottom
– you or your child have diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days

Check with the GP surgery before going in. A GP may speak to you on the phone. Call 111 if you cannot contact your GP.

Call 999 or go to A&E if you or your child:
– vomit blood or have vomit that looks like ground coffee
– have bright green or yellow vomit
– might have swallowed something poisonous
– have a stiff neck and pain when looking at bright lights
– have a sudden, severe headache or stomach ache

Causes of diarrhoea and vomiting
You probably won’t know exactly what the cause is, but the main causes of diarrhoea and vomiting are treated in the same way.
The most common causes are:
– a stomach bug (gastroenteritis)
norovirus – also called the “vomiting bug”
food poisoning
– medicines – check the leaflet to see it’s a side effect
– a food intolerance or food allergy
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
inflammatory bowel disease
coeliac disease
diverticular disease
– pregnancy
– medicines – check the leaflet to see if it’s a side effect
reflux – where a baby brings feeds back up (“spitting up”)
– other infections – such as a urinary tract infection (UTI)
You can often treat the flu without seeing your GP and should begin to feel better in about a week.

Check if you have flu
Flu symptoms come on very quickly and can include:
– a sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above
– an aching body
– feeling tired or exhausted
– a dry cough
– a sore throat
– a headache
– difficulty sleeping
– loss of appetite
– diarrhoea or tummy pain
– nausea and being sick

The symptoms are similar for children, but they can also get pain in their ear and appear less active.

Telling the difference between cold and flu
Cold and flu symptoms are similar, but flu tends to be more severe.
Flu – Appears quickly within a few hours – Affects more than just your nose and throat – Makes you feel exhausted and too unwell to carry on as normal
Cold – Appears gradually – Affects mainly your nose and throat – Makes you feel unwell, but you’re OK to carry on as normal (for example, go to work)

How to treat flu yourself
To help you get better more quickly:
– rest and sleep
– keep warm
– take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains
– drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your pee should be light yellow or clear)

A pharmacist can help with flu
A pharmacist can give treatment advice and recommend flu remedies.
Be careful not to use flu remedies if you’re taking paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets as it’s easy to take more than the recommended dose.
Speak to a pharmacist before giving medicines to children.

Urgent advice: Get advice from 111 now if:
– you’re worried about your baby’s or child’s symptoms
– you’re 65 or over
– you’re pregnant
– you have a long-term medical condition – for example, diabetes or a heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease
– you have a weakened immune system – for example, because of chemotherapy or HIV
– your symptoms do not improve after 7 days
111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.
Go to or call 111.

Get an urgent GP appointment
Ask your GP practice for an urgent appointment.
GPs do not recommend antibiotics for flu because they will not relieve your symptoms or speed up your recovery.

Call 999 or go to A&E if you:
– develop sudden chest pain
– have difficulty breathing
– start coughing up blood

How to avoid spreading the flu
Flu is very infectious and easily spread to other people. You’re more likely to give it to others in the first 5 days.
Flu is spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.
To reduce the risk of spreading flu:
– wash your hands often with warm water and soap
– use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
– bin used tissues as quickly as possible