Updated 07 September 2018

Diarrhoea in children: when to see a doctor

If your child is displaying any of these symptoms, you may have to take them to see the doctor.

Take your child to see a doctor if:

  • Vomiting persists and your child is unable to keep fluids down
  • Your child is dehydrated, despite the use of an oral rehydrate solution (ORS)
  • You notice bloody diarrhoea or blood in the stool
  • Your child’s vomit is a green or yellow colour
  • Your child has diarrhoea for more than five days or is vomiting for more than two days

Also consider taking your child to the doctor if they are:

  • Younger than 1 years old and showing signs of dehydration (fewer wet nappies)
  • Younger than 3 months old and have a temperature of 38°C or higher
  • 3-6 months old and have a temperature of 39°C or higher

Go directly to the emergency unit of your closest hospital if your child:

  • Vomits blood or has vomit that looks like ground coffee
  • Has a stiff neck with pain when looking at bright lights
  • Has a sudden, severe headache (migraine) or stomach ache
  • May have swallowed something poisonous

What to ask the doctor

  • If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, ask for a probiotic to use alongside the antibiotic. This may help your child’s healthy gut bacteria to survive.
  • Ask about supplementation, especially for vitamin A and zinc.
  • Ask about the rotavirus immunisation. Double check that your child has received both immunisations as part of the EPI programme.
  • Ask your doctor for a rehydration solution or make your own (a solution made up of 1 litre of boiled and cooled down water, 8 tsp sugar and ½ tsp of salt).

Reviewed by Kim Hofmann, registered dietitian, BSc Medical (Honours) Nutrition and Dietetics, BSc (Honours) Psychology. August 2018.

Image credit: iStock