Stomach upsets in children – how to manage them and when to seek help

sl stock sick child

Most children will catch a stomach upset from time to time, which may cause vomiting or diarrhoea. Gastro illnesses like these tend to be short-lived, but they can really make their presence felt in a short time. So what should you do if your child comes down with a tummy bug, and when do you need to see a doctor?

We’ve teamed up with Children’s Panadol to provide you with lots of quick and helpful information covering many aspects of children’s health and development. We hope you’ll find them a great resource as you take care of your family every day.

Diarrhoea and vomiting in babies

Almost all babies bring up a bit of milk (and some a lot of milk) without distress. This is normal. But if your baby is suddenly vomiting a lot more, or it occurs frequently over an hour or two, it could be serious. The vomiting may accompany other signs of illness, like fever or diarrhoea. This is when their bowel movements become much more watery and more frequent than usual. There may be mucus or blood in the bowel movements, which may be very smelly.

Babies under six months

  • Don’t try to manage it yourself – contact your doctor straight away.
  • Continue to breastfeed (small, frequent feeds are recommended).
  • If bottle feeding, stop giving formula. Instead, offer oral rehydration fluids or 50 mL of boiled water, cooled to room temperature, every hour until you can see your doctor.

Babies over six months

  • Continue to breastfeed. You may also offer 50mL of clear fluids in between breastfeeds.
  • If bottle feeding, stop giving formula for 12–24 hours. Give clear fluids instead. When vomiting and diarrhoea settles, or after 24 hours, recommence usual formula.
  • If your baby is on solids, stop for 24 hours, then slowly re-introduce them, starting with rice, pasta, potato, toast or bread, or baby rice cereal. The aim is to return to a normal diet within two to three days of the illness settling.
  • Don’t give medicine unless your doctor says so.

Oral rehydration solution (electrolyte solution) can be bought at your pharmacy or supermarket – either in ready-made liquid form (or freezable ice blocks), or as sachets of powder that you mix with water. It helps replace important minerals lost, like sugar and salts. Make sure you always carefully follow the directions on the packet or bottle, and make up the correct quantities for your child’s age and weight. If oral rehydration fluid is not available, fluids such as clear (without pulp), diluted, unsweetened fruit juice or cordial may be used with caution.

When to see your doctor

  • If your baby is less than six months old and has vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • If your baby is less than three months old and has a fever of 38°C or above.
  • If your child can’t stop vomiting and can’t keep the right amount of fluid down.
  • If there is any bile stained (greenish) vomit, or signs of blood in the vomit.
  • If there is blood or mucus in their bowel movements.
  • If your child has ongoing tummy pain or high fevers.
  • If your child becomes sleepier than normal, or is hard to wake up, or is limp.
  • If your child is having less than half their normal fluid intake.
  • If your child has sunken eyes.
  • If your child’s mouth or tongue feels dry.
  • If your child goes four to six hours or more without a wet nappy.
  • If your child is very irritable and unable to be consoled.
  • If your child has other health problems or does not seem to be getting any better.

This is an excerpt from The First Five Years, which is a handy and easy to navigate book, specifically developed to help parents. It contains a comprehensive collection of practical parenting information and useful tips for your child’s first five years. If you’ve ever wanted a quick guide to refer to in the middle of the night, or to help you decide when it’s time to see a doctor, this is a resource which will help you on your way. You can view it online or download it for free at The First Five Years.

(This is a sponsored post for Children’s Panadol)

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