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Diarrhoea and sickness in children - Symptoms of gastroenteritis in children

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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Gastroenteritis usually begins with the symptoms of:

Your child may also have:

The symptoms of vomiting usually pass within one to two days. In most children, vomiting will not last longer than three days.

The symptoms of diarrhoea usually pass within five to seven days. Most children's diarrhoea symptoms will not last more than two weeks.


Gastroenteritis can cause dehydration, which can be more serious than the rotavirus infection itself. It is very important to be aware of the symptoms of dehydration so that you can recognise them in your child.

The symptoms of dehydration include:

  • dry mouth and eyes
  • no tears produced when the child cries
  • sunken appearance of the eyes
  • weakness and drowsiness
  • deep, rapid breathing
  • passing urine infrequently

Read more about dehydration.

Contact your GP if you think your child is dehydrated. If this is not possible, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647.

When to seek medical advice

Rotavirus gastroenteritis shares many of the initial symptoms of more serious childhood conditions. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms that suggest your child has a more serious condition.

Signs and symptoms to look out for are:

  • a temperature of 38C (100.4F) or higher in children younger than three months
  • a temperature of 39C (102.2F) or higher in children older than three months
  • shortness of breath
  • abnormally rapid breathing
  • a change in their normal mental state, such as appearing confused
  • stiff neck
  • a swelling in the soft part of their head (fontanelle)
  • a blotchy red rash, which (unlike most other rashes) does not fade when you put a glass against it
  • blood or mucus in their stools (faeces)
  • green vomit
  • severe stomach pain
  • swelling of their stomach 
  • symptoms of vomiting that last longer than three days
  • symptoms of diarrhoea that last longer than two weeks
  • symptoms of dehydration that persist or get worse, despite treatment with fluids and oral rehydration solutions

Contact your GP for advice as soon as possible if you notice any of the above signs and symptoms. Call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 if you cannot get hold of your GP.

Medical Review: May 07, 2012
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