Key priorities for implementation


  • Perform stool microbiological investigations if:

    • you suspect septicaemia or

    • there is blood and/or mucus in the stool or

    • the child is immunocompromised.

Assessing dehydration and shock

  • Use table 1 to detect clinical dehydration and shock.

Fluid management

  • In children with gastroenteritis but without clinical dehydration:

    • continue breastfeeding and other milk feeds

    • encourage fluid intake

    • discourage the drinking of fruit juices and carbonated drinks, especially in those at increased risk of dehydration (see recommendation

    • offer oral rehydration salt (ORS) solution as supplemental fluid to those at increased risk of dehydration (see recommendation

  • In children with clinical dehydration, including hypernatraemic dehydration:

    • use low-osmolarity ORS solution (240–250 mOsm/l) for oral rehydration therapy (the BNF for children (BNFC) 2008 edition lists the following products with this composition: Dioralyte, Dioralyte Relief, Electrolade and Rapolyte)

    • give 50 ml/kg for fluid deficit replacement over 4 hours as well as maintenance fluid

    • give the ORS solution frequently and in small amounts

    • consider supplementation with their usual fluids (including milk feeds or water, but not fruit juices or carbonated drinks) if they refuse to take sufficient quantities of ORS solution and do not have red flag symptoms or signs (see table 1)

    • consider giving the ORS solution via a nasogastric tube if they are unable to drink it or if they vomit persistently

    • monitor the response to oral rehydration therapy by regular clinical assessment.

  • Use intravenous fluid therapy for clinical dehydration if:

    • shock is suspected or confirmed

    • a child with red flag symptoms or signs (see table 1) shows clinical evidence of deterioration despite oral rehydration therapy

    • a child persistently vomits the ORS solution, given orally or via a nasogastric tube.

  • If intravenous fluid therapy is required for rehydration (and the child is not hypernatraemic at presentation):

    • use an isotonic solution, such as 0.9% sodium chloride, or 0.9% sodium chloride with 5% glucose, for both fluid deficit replacement and maintenance

    • for those who required initial rapid intravenous fluid boluses for suspected or confirmed shock, add 100 ml/kg for fluid deficit replacement to maintenance fluid requirements, and monitor the clinical response

    • for those who were not shocked at presentation, add 50 ml/kg for fluid deficit replacement to maintenance fluid requirements, and monitor the clinical response

    • measure plasma sodium, potassium, urea, creatinine and glucose at the outset, monitor regularly, and alter the fluid composition or rate of administration if necessary

    • consider providing intravenous potassium supplementation once the plasma potassium level is known.

Nutritional management

  • After rehydration:

    • give full-strength milk straight away

    • reintroduce the child's usual solid food

    • avoid giving fruit juices and carbonated drinks until the diarrhoea has stopped.

Information and advice for parents and carers

  • Advise parents, carers and children that:

    • washing hands with soap (liquid if possible) in warm running water and careful drying is the most important factor in preventing the spread of gastroenteritis:

    • hands should be washed after going to the toilet (children) or changing nappies (parents/carers) and before preparing, serving or eating food

    • towels used by infected children should not be shared

    • children should not attend any school or other childcare facility while they have diarrhoea or vomiting caused by gastroenteritis

    • children should not go back to their school or other childcare facility until at least 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting

    • children should not swim in swimming pools for 2 weeks after the last episode of diarrhoea.

This recommendation is adapted from the following guidelines commissioned by the Department of Health:

  • Public Health England (2017) Health protection in schools and other childcare facilities

  • Working Group of the former PHLS Advisory Committee on Gastrointestinal Infections (2004) Preventing person-to-person spread following gastrointestinal infections: guidelines for public health physicians and environmental health officers. Communicable Disease and Public Health 7(4):362–384.