Skip to content

Diarrhoea and vomiting Emergency Department leaflet

Download and print as a PDF



  • An episode of diarrhoea and vomiting is extremely common and is usually caused by a viral infection. As a result antibiotics don’t help and may make you feel worse.
  • It is important to keep drinking fluids. It is better to drink squashes than water. You should avoid fizzy drinks as these may make you feel worse. Oral rehydration fluid can be bought over the counter and can help to replace important substances you are losing.
  • You should try and drink a little fluid often. Even if you vomit or have diarrhoea after drinking fluids it is likely that you will have absorbed some and this will help you feel better.
  • You are extremely infectious. You should wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after every time you go to the toilet. You should not prepare food. Ideally you should use your own towel.
  • You should not return to work until 48 hours after your last vomit or episode of diarrhoea.
  • You should eat only if you feel hungry and should try light, plain foods such as bread. You should avoid rich, fatty foods as these will make you feel worse.

Typical symptoms

Symptoms usually start a few hours or days after picking up a bug. Typical symptoms include

  • Sudden diarrhoea.
  • Feeling sick (nausea).
  • Being sick (vomiting).

A stomach ache or cramps. You may also have a temperature.

Treating yourself

You can generally treat diarrhoea and vomiting at home. The symptoms will usually get better on their own within a week as long as you can keep hydrated.

Things to do:

  • Drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration, such as water and squash. If you're well hydrated, your urine should be light yellow or clear.
  • Wash your hands after going to the toilet and before you eat.
  • Clean toilet seats, flush handles, taps, surfaces and door handles every day.
  • Wash dirty clothing and bedding separately on a hot wash.
  • Stay at home and get plenty of rest.
  • Return to your normal diet as soon as you feel able to eat.
  • Take paracetamol to reduce pain or fever.

Things to consider:

  • Consider getting oral rehydration solution from your pharmacist if the symptoms last longer than a couple of days.
  • Consider a discussion with your pharmacist about whether antidiarrhoeal agents may benefit you.

Things to avoid:

  • Don’t drink fizzy drinks or fruit juice. These can make your symptoms worse.
  • Don’t return to school or work until your symptoms have stopped for two days. You're most infectious from when your symptoms start until two days after they've passed.
  • Don’t prepare food for other people, if possible.
  • Don’t share towels, flannels, cutlery and utensils.
  • Don’t use a swimming pool until two weeks after your symptoms stop.

When should I seek urgent advice?

See a doctor urgently, if:

  • You vomit blood.
  • You pass blood from your back passage.
  • You have a fainting episode.
  • You become so light headed that you can’t stand up.
  • Your diarrhoea doesn’t stop after seven days.
  • Your vomiting doesn’t stop after two days.
  • Despite trying your best to rehydrate, your urine becomes very dark in colour.

    Where can I look for further information and advice?

    This information is intended for patients receiving care in Brighton & Hove or Haywards Heath.

    The information in this article is for guidance purposes only and is in no way intended to replace professional clinical advice by a qualified practitioner.

    Publication Date: June 2018

    Review Date: January 2023

    Pin It on Pinterest

    Share This