Diarrhoea – how to manage at home and when to get help

Also known as watery poos or rererere

Diarrhoea is when your poos become runny or you have to go a lot more often. It's very common in adults and children.

Diarrhoea can start suddenly and last for less than 2 weeks (acute) or for more than 2 weeks (chronic). It usually goes away on its own, but if you have the symptoms described below you need to seek medical advice.

COVID-19 pandemic

Diarrhoea (runny poo), with or without respiratory symptoms, such as a cough, fever, or runny nose, could also be a COVID infection. Test for COVID-19 and stay home until well or sure this isn’t COVID.

How to care for diarrhoea yourself



  • don’t give anti-diarrhoeal medicines to babies or children
  • don't eat fatty, oily or sugary food and drinks
  • don't drink undiluted fruit juices
  • don't drink tea, coffee and alcohol.

Image credit: Canva

When to get help

When to contact a healthcare provider or call Healthline 0800 611 116 for advice

If you or someone you are caring for experiences any of the following:

  • A very painful abdomen (tummy/puku), eg, you can't walk or need to walk bent over, or feel you need to hold your tummy all the time.
  • Pain getting worse over time, or pain becomes sharper or stronger in one place.
  • Your child is less than 6 months old and has diarrhoea and vomiting (being sick)
  • Blood or mucus in your poo.
  • Vomiting with diarrhoea and can't keep fluids down.
  • Lots of diarrhoea, eg, 8–10 watery stools (poo) in a day.
  • Other symptoms as well, eg, fever or dizziness – especially if they get worse or new symptoms develop.
  • Pale, sweaty or has a racing heart (palpitations)
  • Feel very thirsty or looks dehydrated. Signs can include:
    • dry mouth, lips or tongue
    • no tears when crying or sunken eyes
    • have fewer or no wet nappies
    • have little or dark-coloured urine (pee/mimi)
  • You are also receiving chemotherapy or long-term steroid treatment, have HIV infection, are pregnant or have diabetes or kidney disease.
  • The diarrhoea is not going away after 3–4 days and is getting worse. 

Call 111 and ask for an ambulance or go to the nearest hospital if the person:

  • Collapses or becomes pale and clammy.
  • Is drowsy and unresponsive.
  • Is unusually sleepy or difficult to wake.
  • Is floppy or limp.
  • Has cold hands and feet and mottled bluish skin.
  • Has sudden, severe stomach pain.
  • Has pain when their stomach is touched.
  • Is vomiting blood or a ground coffee-like substance.
  • Has bloody or black, sticky poo.
  • Is finding it hard to breathe.
  • Has tightness or heaviness in their chest.
  • Finds the pain spreads up to their chest, neck or shoulder.
  • Can't pee.

How can I prevent the spread of diarrhoea?

Careful handwashing is the most important way to prevent the spread of diarrhoea. Also, if you or your child has infectious diarrhoea, don’t go to school, early childhood centres or your workplace until you have both had no symptoms for 48 hours. Read more about how to prevent others getting diarrhoea too.

Learn more

Read more about diarrhoea, including causes and treatments for diarrhoea.

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Dr Janine Bycroft, GP, Auckland Last reviewed: 02 Aug 2022