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Gastroenteritis or Sudden Onset Diarrhoea

Dr Middleton discusses how to manage acute (sudden onset) diarrhoea and when to seek medical attention.

Sudden onset diarrhoea is very common and can be unpleasant. Most cases can be managed with regular sips of water or oral rehydration solutions (such as Dioralyte) and are self-limiting. Most diarrhoeal illnesses resolve within 5-7 days. You should not return to work or school until you have had 48 hours without watery diarrhoea.

You should seek medical attention if you have any signs of dehydration:

  • In children or babies: dehydration symptoms include increased sleepiness, dry nappies for more than 12 hours and a dry mouth.
  • In adults: dehydration symptoms include passing urine less often, dry mouth and light-headedness.

If you notice blood in your diarrhoea, have travelled abroad recently or suspect you have food poisoning then you should seek medical advice.

Monday-Friday: call for an urgent care telephone call from a clinician.

Saturday - Sunday (or overnight) medical advice can be accessed via NHS 111, which links to the emergency GP service.

If you have prolonged diarrhoea, more than 6 days or suspect food poisoning or traveller’s diarrhoea, then you will be asked to provide a stool (poo) sample.

NHS Choices Diarrhoea

PatientInfo Leaflet on how to manage Gastroenteritis in adults



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