Childhood Illnesses

Sickness Bugs - Diarrhoea and Vomiting

Sickness bugs are where your child vomits and / or has diarrhoea and has tummy pains. Sickness bugs are usually caused by a virus or a bacteria.

These bugs are common because they are very easy to pass from one person to another. The best thing to do is stay home until the bug passes. Most children will be better within a week, or even less, and won’t need any treatment.

Dive Deeper

Taking Care of Your Child at Home

Children can feel worried and upset when they have sickness and diarrhoea. Stay close by so you can comfort them and give cuddles.

  • Offer plenty to drink – to replace fluids being lost. Offer sips even if they are sick again shortly after.
  • Offer breastfed babies feeds more often.
  • Offer formula fed babies feeds as usual – do not ‘water down’ formula milk.
  • Avoid fizzy drinks, and fruit juices.
  • Let them eat if they are hungry. Keep food plain, food like - bread, pasta, rice.
  • If they have tummy aches and pains give paracetamol as directed. If you are unsure ask your pharmacist.


Dehydration is when your body is passing out more fluids than it is taking in – through vomit, diarrhoea or sweat.

Being hydrated helps the body function. When you are being sick or have diarrhoea, your body is losing the important salts and chemicals it needs. This is one of the reasons it can make you feel poorly.

Signs of Dehydration

To begin with babies and young children will seem thirsty. They might have a dry mouth and cracked lips. You might then notice;

  • Dark coloured wee or not weeing often – less than 4 wet nappies / big wees in a day
  • You cannot get your child to take any fluids
  • Babies may have a sunken ‘soft spot’ (fontanelle)
  • Drowsiness and / or fast breathing, a fast beating heart.

Keeping Your Child Hydrated

  • Continue to offer fluids little and often – you could try offering from a spoon or clean medicine syringe
  • Try ice lollies
  • Ask your Pharmacist for advice on using diluted rehydration powders to replace salts and chemicals. 

Keep a close eye on your child in case the dehydration gets worse and needs medical attention. If left untreated dehydration can be very dangerous.

Stopping Sickness Bugs from Spreading

Wash your hands really well with warm soapy water. This is the best way to stop spread.

  • You can use anti-bacterial hand rubs too – this should not be instead of hand washing.
  • Wash all bed linen and towels on a hot wash.
  • Wipe down kitchen surfaces, toilets, hand basins and door handles with bleach based cleaner.

Getting Back to Normal After a Bug

The bug is often infectious to others so do not return to nursery, school or work until 48 hours after the last bout of sickness or diarrhoea. This is to reduce the risk of it passing around.

You shouldn’t go swimming until two weeks after the bug ends.

Whenever possible keep away from people who are more likely to be made very poorly by a bug such as the very old, the very young and those who already have health problems.

You shouldn’t visit anyone in a hospital or nursing home, or attend hospital appointments until 48 hours of no symptoms.

Who can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

The Lullaby Trust - Baby Check App - This app has simple checks that you can do if your baby is ill and helps you think about whether they need to see a doctor or health professional.

You can speak to other Norfolk parents and carers by clicking our online community forum below. 

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