Gastro, every parents worst nightmare

Gastro, its one of those illnesses we all dread, and is it just us or is it everywhere at the moment?

We know how hard it is caring for kids with gastro, especially with the stress of catching it yourself.

To make your life just that little bit easier we have put together all the information you could possibly need when dealing with this not so fun illness.

Good luck and godspeed. You’ve got this.

What actually is gastro?

Gastro aka gastroenteritis (aka the devil) is a common illness that happens when an infection causes inflammation of the digestive system.

Gastro is most commonly caused by viruses such as rotavirus and norovirus.

However it can also be bacterial (campylobacter, salmonella, shigella) and in some cases as the result of a parasite (giardia or cryptosporidium).

Let’s talk about signs and symptoms!

The main symptoms of gastro are diarrhoea and/or vomiting that usually lasts around 24-48 hours. However it’s not unusual for diarrhoea to last up to 10 days, yikes.

You generally see signs and symptoms of viral or bacterial gastro 1-3 days after being exposed to the bug. And 5-15 days after exposure for parasitic gastro.

How do you usually catch it?

Gastro is highly contagious so it can be passed on from person to person very easily.

TMI WARNING: Hands, objects and surfaces become contaminated with gastro bugs via infected faeces or vomit. These bugs are then transferred to the mouth when eating, drinking or touching the face. I warned you!

Organisms that cause gastro can also live in contaminated food and water, think Bali belly.

How do i stop it running rampant through the entire household?

The simple answer? Clean, clean, clean, and then clean again.

1). Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and do so often (particularly after using the toilet and before and after preparing eating food). You may be surprised to know that alcohol based hand sanitiser DOES NOT kill Gastro bugs.

2). Instead of drying hands with cloth towels, use disposable paper towels instead. Gastro bugs can survive on objects for some time, yuck!

3). Wash bedding and other fabrics on a hot wash with laundry detergent and make sure you don’t overcrowd the machine. If you have a dryer put your clothes on the warmest dry cycle you can.

4). Clean bathrooms and other surfaces with diluted bleach solutions, leaving for 5 minutes and ensuring the surface is visibly wet. Following this rinse with warm soapy water and dry with paper towel (don’t forget change tables, light switches, door handles and taps).

To make an effective bleach solution use 25ml of household bleach in 1 litre of water

5). Wash plastic toys and other items (that you don’t want to use bleach on) with warm soapy water making sure the detergent you use has the words ‘disinfectant’ on it.

If you don’t have one, go and get yourself a Strucket from Bunnings, this is not sponsored, we are just obsessed.

6). Clean up gastro spills (such as vomit) with paper towels. Dispose of paper towels in zip lock bags before putting them in the bin. Don’t forget the gloves.

7). Stay home while sick, and for 48 hours after gastro symptoms have stopped.

How should i treat gastro?

If the gastro is viral (which it usually is) there’s no specific medication that can help, however here are still things that can help.

The most important thing to do is to focus on hydration and dehydration. This is because kids dehydrate easily when losing fluids from diarrhoea and/or vomiting. Have a read of our dehydration blog post here!

Keep kiddos comfortable, paracetamol/ibuprofen for pain or discomfort, love, rest, cuddles.

If the cause of gastro was bacterial, your child may require antibiotics or if the gastro was from a parasite your child may require anti-parasitic medication. A GP can take a stool tests to determine this.

In really severe cases your child may need to be admitted to hospital for fluid replacement therapy.

Do not give little ones anti diarrhoea medication as it can be really dangerous for kids.

When should i take my child to see a GP?

Take your child to a GP or urgent care centre if;

  • They are under 6 months with gastro (as young children can dehydrate quickly)
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhoea and are not drinking fluids
  • Vomiting regularly and cant seem to keep down fluids
  • Have a lot of diarrhoea (8-10 episodes of watery poo or 2 or 3 large poos a day)
  • Symptoms are not improving after 10 days
  • Blood or mucous in poo
  • Bad stomach pain
  • Signs of mild / moderate dehydration (click here to read all about dehydration)
  • You are concerned for any reason


And when should i take my child to ED or call 000 for an ambulance?

  • Your child’s vomit appears to be green
  • Signs of severe dehydration (read all about these symptoms here)
  • Pale, floppy or unresponsive
  • Your instinct tells you that something is seriously wrong

Alright there you have it. The important info you need to survive gastro.

If you want to learn more about how to manage general childhood illness and emergencies, book a course with us today!


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