Stomach Flu and Kids – What To Know & Do
Stomach Flu in children – or viral gastroenteritis – generally only require hydration. Even if your child is not eating, this is usually not a concern as long as he or she is drinking.
I recommend small sips often; even five or 10 mL every 20 or 30 minutes may be okay. As long as your child does not suffer an excessive loss of fluid in the diarrhea or vomit, and takes some fluid with sugar and salt, he or she will remain hydrated.
An Electrolyte Drink can be used, though some children are offended by the taste. Oral rehydration fluid like Gatorade, which has less salt and more sugar can help. In my home, we mix a small amount of Gatorade with Pedialyte. Small amounts of water with diluted juice may be helpful, though the juice may make diarrhea worse. Milk need not be avoided, though if it makes the diarrhea worse, cut back.
Some children benefit from a lactose-free beverage, as lactose may irritate the belly. If you are concerned that your child is dehydrated, please see your doctor.
Some forms of bacteria gastroenteritis require antibiotic therapy. Your doctor will suggest collecting a stool sample to send for culture. If bacteria grows in the stool your doctor may suggest antibiotics.
If a parasite is present in the stool, an anti-parasitic medications may be prescribed.
Stomach Flu – What to eat after?
Once the diarrhea and vomiting subside, your child can go back to eating a normal diet, though some children benefit from eating lactose-reduced or lactose-free foods for a few weeks. There is no need to follow the ‘BRAT’ diet of only bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. Your child can eat what they crave, albeit in small amounts to prevent stomach pain and diarrhea.
The easiest way to prevent stomach flu is to avoid children with diarrheal illnesses, to wash hands frequently, to practice good toilet hygiene, to avoid contamination and to refrain from eating undercooked foods. Washing fruits and vegetables completely and cleaning counters and utensils thoroughly after use can prevent bacterial spread. Always ensure that you refrigerate meats as soon as possible to prevent the growth of bacteria. Children should avoid drinking lake, river or pool water. If you plan to travel to less developed countries, please discuss prevention tips with your doctor.
WHEN TO BE WORRIED
Please see your doctor ASAP if your child has:
• Recurrent prolonged episodes of diarrhea
• High fever
• Severe pain
• Repeated vomiting
• Blood or mucus in the stool
• Lack of urine
• Sunken, dull, non glossy eyes or no tears
• Sunken fontanel in baby (flat or sunken soft spot)
After The Flu
Unfortunately, some children with stomach flu will have ongoing diarrhea for weeks. However, this is usually self-limited, and as long as your child is drinking he should get better on his own.
Diarrhea is one of the most common illnesses in children and is likely here to stay.
If you are armed with the warning signs and know how best to treat it, you will emerge the victor.
When should kids stay out of daycare or school?
- If there is uncontrollable diarrhea
- If your child is actively vomiting
- If there is persistent fever
- If your child feels unwell
To learn more about diarrhea in babies and children.
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