Diarrhea and vomiting

Viral infection in the intestine is a common cause of diarrhea and vomiting. It is less common due to bacteria. The infection can affect all age groups, but it is most severe in young children (in infants under 3 months, intestinal infection is rare). Like colds, viral infections in the gut are most common in winter, but the condition occurs all year around.

There are a number of viruses that can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Some viruses primarily cause nausea and vomiting, others mainly cause diarrhea - the most common is a combination.

  • Symptoms

    Nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.

    The different viruses have different incubation time. In most cases it takes 2-3 days, but both longer and shorter intervals occur.

    The disease can last up to a week. The tendency to vomit usually subsides after 1-2 days, while diarrhea usually lasts a little longer.

  • What can I do myself?

    For most people, it is a harmless condition that passes within 3-7 days. A possible problem with the common disease, however, is dehydration. You lose a lot of fluid through both vomiting and diarrhea, in addition you have less desire for both food and drink during illness. Dehydration can cause serious problems, especially in children under the age of two and among older people. To avoid dehydration, it is important to drink a lot. Small and dark urine is a sign that you are not getting enough fluid. In young children, dehydration can also be manifested by the child becoming limp and lethargic, possibly irritable.

    The biggest mistake you can make is not giving fluids or food. Children must be offered both even if they vomit. It is recommended to drink small amounts of fluid at a time (as low as 5 ml), but drink frequently - it can also help with nausea.

    Infants should be breastfed as often as possible, but the disease may mean that they do not have the strength to get enough milk. One should then give frequent, small portions of liquid by syringe, bottle or spoon.

    At the pharmacy you can buy special liquid substitutes which also replace the body's need for salts and sugar. These are recommended as they have the right composition of salts.

    The most important thing, however, is that you get fluids. Children should therefore be given what they want to drink. Sweet drinks (soft drinks, juices) that have not been diluted should be avoided if possible as they increase the amount of fluid in the intestine and can worsen the diarrhea. There is nothing to prevent the baby from getting milk (contrary to what was previously thought), but the diarrhea can last a few hours longer. It may make sense to give lactose-free milk. If you can not use liquid substitutes, small amounts of salt biscuits or the like can be a decent addition.

    If you are unable to ingest any particular food for a short period of time, it is harmless, but you recover faster by continuing to eat even if you vomit. There is nothing wrong with eating completely normal foods in slightly smaller amounts. Easily digestible foods such as yogurt, soups, biscuits, grated apple and the like can be easier to absorb. For adults: Cigarettes, coffee and alcohol should be avoided during the illness.

    There are medicines that reduce diarrhea (Imodium®, Travello®). In general, the use of drugs is not recommended. Diarrhea is the body's way of overcoming the infection - to "flush or flush" the virus out of the intestine. Medicines are therefore only recommended when the fluid loss becomes particularly large, or to avoid diarrhea in special situations (eg during a flight). These medicines should not be used by children under the age of 12 years.

    A person with this disease must be very careful with hand hygiene to prevent transmission to others. This means thorough hand washing with soap and plenty of running water after using the toilet and before cooking. It is also recommended that you use your own towel or disposable towel. Alcohol-based cleaning should not replace washing with soap and running water.

    According to the National Institute of Public Health, one can return to work and school when one feels healthy. Because you can excrete infectious substances even after the symptoms have subsided, it is extra important to have good hand hygiene in the first days after you have recovered.

    People who handle food, for example in commercial kitchens or canteens, should not return to work until 48 hours after vomiting and diarrhea have resolved.

    Children with acute diarrhea should be kept at home while they have symptoms, and they should not return to daycare until two days after they have become symptom-free. This also applies to nappy babies.

    Children who normally have a tendency to loose stools do not need to be kept away from the daycare center. It must be the parents who decide if the child has an abnormal diarrhea condition. In diarrheal conditions where it is suspected that the infection has come from food (for example after a trip abroad), the child should be examined by a doctor, and it should be checked whether other children in the kindergarten have symptoms.

  • What can Eyr help with?
    • Eyr can competently assess and give advice on diarrhea and vomiting.
    • Eyr can prescribe necessary medications
    • Eyr can write a doctor's statement
    • Eyr can give advice to parents with sick children
    • Eyr can refer to further assessment and treatment if necessary.

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Reference: Norwegian Medical Handbook, NEL. Edited and medically quality assured by Dr. Theresa Franck, specialist in general medicine.