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Symptoms - Diarrhoea in babies and children

Diarrhoea is poo that is more watery and loose than usual. It can cause poos to happen more often.

There are 2 main types of diarrhoea:

  • acute diarrhoea
  • chronic diarrhoea

Acute diarrhoea starts suddenly and lasts for less than 2 weeks. It's more common in babies and children.

Chronic diarrhoea lasts more than 2 weeks. It's usually caused by another health condition. It will not go away until the other condition is treated.

Symptoms of acute diarrhoea

Symptoms of acute diarrhoea usually last between 3 and 5 days.

They can include:

  • loose or watery poo
  • pooing more than 3 times a day
  • vomiting or being sick
  • high temperature
  • tummy pains
  • dehydration


Your child may become dehydrated if they have severe diarrhoea or vomiting.

Urgent advice: Contact your GP immediately or go to the nearest hospital if:

  • your child shows any signs of severe dehydration

Signs of dehydration are more likely in children who are:

  • under 1 year of age
  • breastfed and stop feeding
  • not drinking fluids
  • unwell with other long-term health problems

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • peeing less than normal
  • weakness
  • less energy than usual
  • irritability
  • fewer tears when crying
  • a dry mouth, lips and tongue
  • the soft spot on your baby’s head (fontanelle) being sunken

Severe dehydration is more likely if your child has had:

  • 6 or more bouts of diarrhoea in 24 hours
  • 3 or more bouts of vomiting in 24 hours

When to get medical help

Most babies and toddlers recover from diarrhoea without needing to see a GP.

Non-urgent advice: Contact your GP for advice if your child:

  • has had diarrhoea more than 6 times in 24 hours
  • has blood or mucus in their poo
  • has vomited more than 3 times in 24 hours
  • shows any symptoms of dehydration
  • still has diarrhoea after 7 days
  • has diarrhoea and has recently returned from travelling abroad

Emergency action required: Take your child to the emergency department immediately if they:

  • have any symptoms of severe dehydration
  • have a high temperature that will not go down
  • are getting worse fast
  • have bad tummy pain

Older children will be able to tell you if they have a bad tummy pain. Younger children and babies will not be able to. If they will not stop crying it could be a sign that they are in pain.

A high temperature for babies under 3 months means 38 degrees Celsius and above. A high temperature for babies over 3 months means 39 degrees Celsius and above.

Page last reviewed: 20 July 2023
Next review due: 20 July 2026