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Parents should wait two weeks to see GP if child has diarrhoea

By Lilian Anekwe

Parents should wait up to two weeks to consult with a child suffering from diarrhoea where no other symptoms are present and the child is otherwise well, according to new guidance from NICE.

The guidelines on the treatment of diarrhoea and vomiting in children under five, published today, advises GPs to inform patients that diarrhoea can last for five to seven days and usually stops within two weeks – and that parents should not bring children who are otherwise well to see their GP.

Up to 300,000 children under five present to healthcare services with symptoms of gastroenteritis each year – the vast majority of which present to primary care.

NICE says most children get better quickly without treatment at home, and the new guidance seeks to prevent unnecessary consultations by reassuring parents that children who are otherwise well do not need to see their GP.

Dr Alastair Hay, senior lecturer in primary health care at the University of Bristol and a GP in the city helped develop the guidance and told Pulse that the document ‘offers consistent advice and dispels some common myths'.

‘There is a myth that in children who are otherwise well but have diarrhoea it should have cleared in five to seven days. I often have parents who consult after a week. But what we are recommending is that parents should not be concerned if it lasts up to 14 days, if the child is otherwise fine. Diarrhoea in isolation may not be a cause for concern.'

It also discourages the drinking of fruit juices or fizzy drinks, as evidence shows they can prolong the diarrhoea. Oral rehydration solutions should be recommended instead.

If children are not dehydrated, GPs should recommended children have plenty of fluids and continue to eat normal foods – full strength milk for babies, and usual foods for older children. Antidiarrhoeals and antibiotics should not be given routinely.

The guidance also recommends parents should see a GP after three days if their child has been vomiting.

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