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Vomiting and Diarrhoea in Infants - Know what to do

Digestion, Infant and Children | July 25, 2014 | Author: The Super Pharmacist

Children, infant

Vomiting and Diarrhoea in Infants - Know what to do

Vomiting and diarrhoea in infants is something that no parent wants to face, but inevitably must at some point in time. It is helpful to have an understanding of the common causes of these conditions and know the management principles that can help alleviate symptoms and stress. The simple fact of the matter is that vomiting and diarrhoea are common childhood conditions. Typically, vomiting will only last around seventy-two hours, while diarrhoea can last up to one to two weeks. Occasionally, a baby will have loose stool. This is especially true for breastfed babies as opposed to those that are fed formula. However, diarrhoea is defined as a watery, unformed stool that occurs frequently.

Common Causes of Vomiting and Diarrhoea in Infants

The cause of this condition can vary, but commonly includes:

  • Ingesting something that the baby is allergic to
  • Food poisoning
  • Stomach infection, or gastroenteritis
  • Viral infection

Diarrhoea that is accompanied by vomiting is often the result of an infection, which is known as gastroenteritis. The cause of this infection is most commonly a virus. Formula-fed infants are more susceptible to contracting a virus than a baby who is breastfed.

The Principles of Managing Vomiting and Diarrhoea in Infants

vomiting and diarrhoea in infantsVomiting and diarrhoea are more serious conditions for infants than they are for older toddlers and children.

The reason for this is that a baby can lose excessive amounts of fluid from their tiny little bodies, which can quickly lead to serious dehydration.

When an infant is suffering from dehydration, they may become irritable or lethargic.


Additional symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Mottled, pale or loose skin
  • Sunken eyes
  • Sunken fontanel, which is the soft spot on top of the head
  • No urine passage, which can be difficult to determine in cases of diarrhoea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cold feet and hands

When an infant becomes dehydrated, additional fluids are essential. Oral rehydration fluids are available from pharmacies which will help to replenish lost fluids and electrolytes. If the infant has experienced six or more watery stools over the last twenty-four hours or vomited more than three times over the same period, replacing the lost fluid may be difficult. In such cases, medical attention should be considered.

Urgent medical attention is necessary if the infant displays any of the following symptoms, such as:

  • Fever
  • Reduced urine passage or the lack of
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Vomiting that lasts more than twenty-four hours

​How to Help

The Principles of Managing Vomiting and Diarrhoea in InfantsIf your infant is vomiting or has diarrhoea, you can do a number of things on your own to manage the condition, these include:

  • Prepare formula and breastfeed at the normal feeding times, as stored formula or breast milk can contain bacteria that increases health issues
  • Sterilise bottles with extreme care
  • Clean the baby’s bottom thoroughly after each diarrhoeal episode and use a barrier cream with nappy changes to prevent rash or soreness
  • Give the infant additional fluids to aid in the prevention of dehydration, which may include rehydration drinks or diluted fruit juice

Practice good personal hygiene 

  • Wash and dry your hands thoroughly when handling baby bottles, changing nappies or wiping the infant’s nose


  • Energy or sport drinks
  • Anti-diarrhoea medications
  • Antibiotics

The most important thing to do when your baby is ill is to make sure he or she is getting plenty of fluids. Vomiting and diarrhoea is a common condition which all parents should be educated on in order to ensure the overall health and wellbeing of their child. Australia's best online pharmacy


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Baby Medical Questions and Answers, Toddler and Baby Diarrhea and Vomiting – Gastroenteritis

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Raising Children Network, A-Z Health Reference, Vomiting

Freedman SB, Adler M, Seshadri R, Powell E; The New England Journal of Medicine Oral Ondansetron for Gastroenteritis in a Pediatric Emergency Room; 2006

Alex G, Lubitz L; Paediatric Handbook; 8th Edition; 2009

NHS Choices, Health A-Z, Pregnancy and Baby, Diarrhoea and Vomiting in Children

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