Gastroenteritis – Advice for Parents and Carers

  • Reference Number: HEY-981/2018
  • Departments: Emergency Department, Paediatrics

This leaflet has been produced to give you general information. Most of your questions should be answered by this leaflet. It is not intended to replace the discussion between you and the healthcare team, but may act as a starting point for discussion. If after reading it you have any concerns or require further explanation, please discuss this with a member of the healthcare team.

What is Gastroenteritis?

This is an infection caused by either a virus or bacteria that causes diarrhoea and vomiting, and may result in dehydration.

Symptoms

Your child may have some of the following symptoms of gastroenteritis:

  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Vomiting (being sick)
  • Diarrhoea (loose stools)
  • A high temperature
  • Tired and miserable
  • Back and stomach pain

There is a risk of your child becoming dehydrated – you may notice that they have dark circles under their eyes and babies may have a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot at the top of their head).

Tests

In some cases, for example prolonged illness or bloody diarrhoea, we may send samples of your child’s stools for testing. This is to find out which virus or bacteria is causing your child’s illness.  The results can take up to 48 hours to come back.

Treatment

As there is no specific treatment for gastroenteritis, we do not routinely give antibiotics for children with diarrhoea and vomiting. We do not give medicine to stop diarrhoea either. The most important treatment is to make sure your child gets enough fluids and does not become dehydrated:

  • If your baby is breast or bottle fed, then encourage them to take their normal feeds.
  • Try to avoid fizzy drinks and fruit juices.
  • It is important that your child does not drink just water, as it does not contain any of the sugars and salts they need. You can give them baby juice or squash, but not sugar free varieties.
  • Offer your child regular drinks in small amounts, starting with a sip at a time. Do not let them gulp it down, even if they are thirsty, as this may make them sick.

Any child that is sick after most drinks may be offered a special drink called Dioralyte™. This replaces sugars, salts and fluids lost. Dioralyte™ is a powder mixed with the correct amount of water or squash (directions are on the packet). Your child may need encouragement to drink it. Use of a straw or syringe can be successful.

Diarrhoea normally lasts 5 to 7 days, however your child can continue to have loose stools for up to 2 weeks. Vomiting normally lasts for 1 to 3 days.  When your child stops being sick gradually reintroduce their normal milk feed if they are a baby or for older children try a light snack, such as a plain biscuit or toast.

If your child is unable to keep fluids down and is becoming dehydrated, they may need to be admitted to the ward. When on the ward we will monitor their fluid intake and hydration level.  We may need to supplement this by giving your child fluids through a small tube we place from your child’s nose into their stomach (nasogastric tube).  Alternatively we may give fluids through a small tube into a vein (IV).

Preventing further problems

  • Always wash your hands before and after touching your child. The risk of spreading illness is higher when changing a babies nappy, or taking your child to the toilet.  Washing your hands will reduce the risk of spreading the illness to yourself and other family members.
  • Make sure all bottles, bowls, plates and cutlery are washed thoroughly or sterilised if necessary.
  • Before preparing food wash your hands and make sure the work surfaces are clean.
  • Do not use foods after its ‘Use By’ date.
  • Make sure raw meat and fish are kept away from other foods and are cooked thoroughly.
  • Do not share a towel with your child while they have diarrhoea and vomiting.
  • Your child should not go to school or nursery until 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea and vomiting.
  • Your child should not go swimming for 2 weeks after the last episode of diarrhoea and vomiting.

After leaving hospital

Continue to encourage your child to take fluids and introduce food or milk.  Remember loose stools may take up to 2 weeks to resolve.  See a Doctor if your child stops drinking or has fewer wet nappies than usual.

Your child needs to be seen urgently if they become dehydrated, have dry nappies/not going to toilet for a wee, or becomes sleepier.

By law the hospital must inform the Environmental Health Department if certain bacteria are found, like Salmonella and E-coli. You may be contacted by an environmental health officer if your child’s sample contains certain viruses or bacteria.  This is to help them find out how the infection started and if there was any food, shop or restaurant involved.

Contact

If you have any questions you can contact NHS111

 

General Advice and Consent

Most of your questions should have been answered by this leaflet, but remember that this is only a starting point for discussion with the healthcare team.

Consent to treatment

Before any doctor, nurse or therapist examines or treats your child, they must seek your consent or permission. In order to make a decision, you need to have information from health professionals about the treatment or investigation which is being offered to your child. You should always ask them more questions if you do not understand or if you want more information.

The information you receive should be about your child’s condition, the alternatives available for your child, and whether it carries risks as well as the benefits. What is important is that your consent is genuine or valid. That means:

  • you must be able to give your consent
  • you must be given enough information to enable you to make a decision
  • you must be acting under your own free will and not under the strong influence of another person

Information about your child

We collect and use your child’s information to provide your child with care and treatment. As part of your child’s care, information about your child will be shared between members of a healthcare team, some of whom you may not meet. Your child’s information may also be used to help train staff, to check the quality of our care, to manage and plan the health service, and to help with research. Wherever possible we use anonymous data.

We may pass on relevant information to other health organisations that provide your child with care. All information is treated as strictly confidential and is not given to anyone who does not need it. If you have any concerns please ask your child’s doctor, or the person caring for your child.

Under the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 we are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of any information we hold about your child. For further information visit the following page: Confidential Information about You.

If you or your carer needs information about your health and wellbeing and about your care and treatment in a different format, such as large print, braille or audio, due to disability, impairment or sensory loss, please advise a member of staff and this can be arranged.

Your newborn baby’s NHS number

An NHS number is allocated to everyone whose birth is registered with a Registrar of Births and Deaths in England and Wales. You already have an NHS number and your baby will be assigned an NHS number soon after birth. Your NHS number is unique to you and provides a reliable means of linking you to the medical and administrative information we hold about you. NHS numbers are allocated on a random basis and, in themeselves, provide no information about the people to whom they relate.