When to see a doctor for sickness, diarrhoea & vomiting


Diarrhoea and vomiting symptoms can vary in severity. Though most cases clear up within a few days without treatment, some cases may require attention from a GP or pharmacist.

It’s important to know when to treat your symptoms at home and when you need to consult your GP. It may help to categorise diarrhoea and vomiting symptoms into three types: symptoms that do not require a GP or pharmacist, symptoms that require a doctor’s appointment, and symptoms that require emergency medical services.

How can I treat my symptoms?

You don't need to contact your GP as long as your diarrhoea and vomiting symptoms clear up within a few days. Vomiting usually lasts one or two days and diarrhoea should last no longer than five to seven days.

Remedies for acute diarrhoea and vomiting include:

• Drinking plenty of fluids, such as water, squash and broth

• Staying at home and resting

• Taking paracetamol or ibuprofen if you’re experiencing pain

• Eating food when you feel able to – you may find it easier to start with simple or bland foods

• Your pharmacist may recommend oral rehydration sachets if they think they're suitable for you

When should you consult a GP?

Symptoms that are more severe may require a visit to your doctor. Schedule an appointment if:

• Vomiting continues for more than two days

• If you keep vomiting and can't keep fluids down

• You have diarrhoea for longer than seven days

• You’ve experienced unexplained weight loss along with vomiting and diarrhoea symptoms

• There’s blood in your stools

• You have symptoms of dehydration. Signs may include dry mouth, excessive thirst, dizziness, passing little or dark coloured urine

• Your stools are black or very dark, as this may be a sign of bleeding within the bowel

• You're worried about your symptoms

If you’re unsure whether your symptoms require medical attention, schedule a doctor’s appointment for an expert assessment.

When should you call emergency medical services or go to A&E?

Some cases of diarrhoea and vomiting require immediate emergency medical attention. Excessive loss of water in your stools can lead to dehydration, which can be serious if not identified and treated as soon as possible. Signs of serious dehydration include:

• Irritability or drowsiness

• Passing urine very infrequently

• Dizziness that doesn't go away

• Confusion or disorientation

• A weak or rapid pulse

Other signs that you need emergency treatment include:

• Vomiting blood, or if your vomit contains what looks like coffee grounds

• Sudden, severe headache or stomach ache

• Stiff neck and pain when looking at bright lights

If any of these symptoms occur, call 999 or visit your closest Accident and Emergency department immediately.

Next steps

• If you’re experiencing diarrhoea or vomiting, try to rest and drink plenty of fluids

• If diarrhoea and vomiting symptoms persist (vomiting for more than two days or diarrhoea for more than seven days), consult your GP

• Call 999 or go to A&E if you have any of the severe symptoms listed above.