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Caring for a Child with Vomiting and/or Diarrhea

Overview

This information is for children 3 months to 10 years old. If your child is less than 3 months old, talk to your doctor.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

Vomiting and diarrhea (watery stool) are very common symptoms in children. Vomiting and diarrhea can happen at any time of year. Although they often happen together, you can have either one or the other alone. The most common cause of vomiting and diarrhea is an infection caused by a virus (it’s also called viral gastroenteritis).

The virus spreads easily. Washing your hands often is the best way to prevent spreading the virus. Wash your hands carefully after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and before handling food. Soap and water is the best way to clean your hands. You can use an alcohol based hand sanitizer if there isn’t any soap and water. The information below will help you manage your child’s vomiting and/or diarrhea.

How to Manage

It’s important to make sure your child is getting enough fluids (staying hydrated). See the GREEN, YELLOW, and RED ZONE signs. Keep giving children their normal diet even while they’re vomiting or having diarrhea. This is because children who are fed normally get better faster than those who are given only liquids while they are sick. If your child has either vomiting and/or diarrhea that isn’t stopping, give 5–60 mL of fluids every 5–60 minutes. See “What to Feed Your Child” for age appropriate food and fluid choices. See the GREEN, YELLOW, and RED ZONE signs and symptoms for help managing symptoms.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Last Revised: April 22, 2013

Author: Pediatrics, Alberta Health Services