About Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is a symptom caused by a range of gastrointestinal problems. Depending on the severity and length of time your child experiences diarrhoea, it can lead to other potentially serious issues such as dehydration. It can be triggered by bacterial or viral infections, food poisoning, some auto-immune conditions, or allergies. In some cases, constipation can present as diarrhoea with so-called ‘overflow diarrhoea’ passing around a blockage. Whatever the cause, if your child is affected for more than 48 hours it is important to have them examined by your GP.

Examination and Diagnosis

Dr McIntyre will take a detailed history, asking questions about the quality and frequency of your child’s stools, as well as exploring any contributing factors such as recent antibiotic use or travel, exposure to any contagious environments, or change in diet. She will then physically examine your child for any accompanying fever, pain, or distention (swelling or bloating) of the abdomen. She may recommend further investigation such as blood or faecal specimens for laboratory testing, or your child may require a gastroscopy and/or colonoscopy to determine the exact cause.



Where your child is drinking fluids and remains alert and responsive, their condition will likely resolve in a few days. In more serious cases, or when the child will not take fluids and becomes listless, hospitalisation is sometimes required to prevent further dehydration and ensure they receive the electrolytes they require. Where a virus is present and identified via laboratory testing, such as rotavirus causing gastroenteritis, usually the child will be back to normal within a few days. In some instances, the child may have a gastrointestinal disease which could be causing the condition, such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Coeliac Disease and may require ongoing treatment and symptom management. Dr McIntyre can guide you through this once a diagnosis is confirmed.


It’s important to know

  • Keep up fluids – water is best (with an electrolyte solution), avoid sugary drinks such as fruit juices which can exacerbate the symptoms
  • If your child has a virus, it is likely they will be highly contagious and should be kept at home
  • Maintain personal hygiene for your child, and all members of the household to prevent spread of infection

Promoting good health in our children

“Working closely with children and their families, it's immensely satisfying to be able to make a difference to their lives by managing their medical conditions with care and compassion.”

Dr Emma McIntyre