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Gastro Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

If you have kids you will undoubtedly go through gastro at one stage or another. It’s a part of the joys of parenting. When this happens the best thing you can do is to be prepared with information and a plan.

I always keep rehydration icy poles in the freezer on the ready, the kids’ beds have 2 layers of sheets and mattress protectors to make middle of the night changes easy and protect the mattress and I have spare changes easy to access. My other advice would be as soon as your kids are capable teach them about hand hygiene. Make sure it is ingrained in them as this is the best way to prevent those nasty gastro bugs.

Gastro Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

What is gastro

Gastro or gastroenteritis is an infection of the bowel resulting in diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting. The main concern and risk with gastro is dehydration from loss of fluids, sugar and salts that the body needs to work properly.

Gastro symptoms

  • Nausea (feeling like you may vomit)
  • Vomiting may occur for 24 to 48 hours
  • Diarrhoea (runny faeces/poo) and stomach pains can last for up to 10 days.
  • A low fever can occur

What causes gastro? How do you catch it?

Gastroenteritis is highly infectious and is spread by the vomit or faeces of an infected person. The gastro virus may be on items the sick person has touched or on their hands.
Gastro can also be spread by contaminated food or drinks.

Preventing gastro

HAND WASHING is the best way to prevent gastro.  Hand washing with soap and running water for at least 10 seconds and then drying your hands.  This needs to be done after each time you:

  • Go to the toilet
  • Change a nappy
  • Prepare or eat food
  • Cleaning up after a sick person

Ensure you handle, store and prepare raw and cooked foods separately. Cook raw food well. Store food safely, according to recommendations.

child sleeping with teddy bear

Treatment of gastro

  • Rest and bed rest are the most effective treatments.
  • Preventing dehydration is very important and people need to DRINK plenty of fluid.
  • Rehydration solutions can be an effective way to prevent dehydration. They replace the fluid and salts that have been lost. Keeping rehydration icy poles in the freezer is a handy option to help kids keep their fluids up.
  • Breastfeeding should be continued, offer more regularly to keep up fluids (your supply will adjust)
  • No need to withhold food, however, if your child does not want to eat that is ok for a day.
  • Avoid daycare, school, work for 24 hours after the symptoms clear up.

Cleaning up after bouts of gastro

  • Avoid touching the vomit or faeces.
  • Wash hands well with soap and running water for at least 10 seconds once you finish.
  • Remove all solid material and dispose of it in the bin.
  • Wipe clean and dirty items and surfaces with hot water and detergent and allow to dry thoroughly. Soiled mattresses can be wiped clean, then sprinkle with bicarb to absorb the smell and any moisture and place out in the sunshine.  Hopefully, mattress protectors avoid any contact with the actual mattress. Ensure every item you clean is dried thoroughly.
  • Clothing and linen can be rinsed then given a hot wash and hung out in the sun to dry.

doctor using stethoscope on child's back

When to see a doctor

  • Children under 6 months should see a doctor if they have gastro.
  • If you or your child is dehydrated and can’t keep fluid down then see a doctor.
  • If a child is difficult to wake or seems very unwell.
  • See a doctor or call Health Direct if you are at all concerned.
  • If vomit is brown, green or contains blood.


** Medical disclaimer – If you are at all concerned call Health Direct (1800 022 222) or speak to your doctor for medical advice. This article is for general information only.



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Gastroenteritis “Gastro” Symptoms, Causes, Treatments is a guest post written by Tanya Burgess.

Baby Hints and TipsTanya Burgess is a registered pharmacist and mother of 3 girls living in Western Australia. When she’s not wrangling her tribe or talking healthcare you’ll find her online at Baby Hints and Tips. This non-judgemental community is a hub for advice on all things pregnancy, baby, kids and parenting. Enjoy the support and fun at www.babyhintsandtips.com.

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