Sickness & Diarrhoea

Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the intestinal tract which usually results in diarrhoea. Being sick or vomiting is another common symptom.

Diarrhoea is passing looser or more frequent stools than is normal for you. It affects most people from time to time and is usually nothing to worry about. However, it can be distressing and unpleasant until it passes, which normally takes a few days to a week.

What causes diarrhoea?
There are many different causes of diarrhoea, but a bowel infection (gastroenteritis) is a common cause in both adults and children.

Gastroenteritis can be caused by:

  • a virus – such as norovirus or rotavirus
  • bacteria – such as campylobacter and Escherichia coli (E. coli), which are often picked up from contaminated food
  • a parasite – such as the parasite that causes giardiasis, which is spread in contaminated water

These infections can sometimes be caught during travel abroad, particularly to areas with poor standards of public hygiene. This is known as travellers’ diarrhoea.

Diarrhoea can also be the result of anxiety, a food allergy, medication, or a long-term condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).


In addition to diarrhoea and vomiting, children affected by gastroenteritis may also have stomach cramps, headaches, aching arms and legs or high temperatures. Symptoms may last as little as 24 hours or as much as seven days. Most people make a full recovery in 2-3 days.

Exclusion period

48 hours after last symptoms.

Read more about this illness at the NHS website.