What To Do With Vomiting and Diarrhea

Lisa Light, M.D., is a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic's Twinsburg Family Health & Surgery Center

Currently, I’m seeing a lot of kids in the office and getting a lot of phone calls about vomiting and diarrhea…  'tis the season!! I thought I’d give some advice about what’s going around. Vomiting and diarrhea can occur for many different reasons and this time of year, there are a lot of viruses causing these illnesses!

These viruses are contagious… SO WASH YOUR HANDS!!    

The typical pattern is that vomiting occurs first, for hopefully no longer than 24 hours. Then the diarrhea becomes the issue. People can have abdominal cramping and loose, watery diarrhea frequently throughout the day. The diarrhea lasts usually about one week, but can it can last up to two weeks. The diarrhea tends to slow down, be less frequent and become more formed. Occasionally, I’ll see kids have further vomiting later in the illness. It can be part of the original virus, or the child was potentially re-infected due to the spread around the house, daycare or school.

If it is a virus, we are unable to give any medications to make it better, faster. It needs to run its course.

The goal is to keep your child hydrated during the illness:


  • Encourage fluids -- 1-2 oz. per hour. 
  • Watch for signs of dehydration which occur when a child loses too much fluid and becomes dried out. Symptoms of dehydration include a decrease in urination, no tears when baby cries, high fever, dry mouth, weight loss, extreme thirst, listlessness, and sunken eyes.
  • Keep your pediatrician informed if there is any significant change in how your child is behaving.
  • Report if your child has blood in his or her stool.
  • Report if your child develops a high fever (more than 102°F or 39°C).
  • Continue to feed your child if she is not vomiting. You may have to give your child smaller amounts of food than normal or give your child foods that do not further upset his or her stomach.
  • Use diarrhea replacement fluids that are specifically made for diarrhea if your child is thirsty.


  • Try to make special salt and fluid combinations at home unless your pediatrician instructs you and you have the proper instruments.
  • Prevent the child from eating if he or she is hungry.
  • Use boiled milk or other salty broth and soups.
  • Use "anti-diarrhea" medicines unless prescribed by your pediatrician. These medications can actually be harmful, prolong an illness or cause worse complications.

Your child should be having at least three wet diapers or urine output in 24 hours.  

Your child should be seen if there is persistent vomiting and unable to tolerate liquids, fevers last longer than 72 hours, lethargy, no urine output in 12 hours, bloody stool, diarrhea lasting longer than one week, or persistent abdominal pain.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.


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