Gastroenteritis, or the stomach bug, is usually caused by a common virus. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, stomachache and sometimes fever. Stomach bugs often begin with vomiting and end with diarrhea. The diarrhea can last for up to 7-10 days. As long as your child is well hydrated, this is not worrisome.
Stomach bugs are very contagious so make sure your child’s hands are being washed frequently. Children should not be in school or daycare if they are vomiting, have a fever (greater than 100.4F), have loose bowel movements that cannot be contained in a diaper or cannot keep up with regular activities.
Medications cannot cure most stomach bugs. The most important course of action is to make sure your child stays hydrated. To monitor for dehydration, keep a close watch on how often your child is urinating. Ideally, we would like your child to have at least 3-4 wet diapers in a 24-hour period. If your child is becoming dehydrated, one of the first signs is very dark urine, followed by scant urine.
Encourage fluid intake by offering small sips very frequently, sometimes every 5-10 minutes. For babies who are breast-feeding, continue breastmilk, as it has immune cells that help fight infection. Other good options are Pedialyte or Liquidlytes. For older babies and children, water is another option but do not give water to babies under 6 months of age, as their bodies’ natural chemicals might get diluted out and cause seizures. Older children might feel better with small sips of carbonated beverages such as ginger ale. Milk and sugar juices might not be absorbed well during a stomach bug but they are much better than nothing if your child will drink them.
Once your child is keeping fluids down for several hours, it is okay to give solid food again. Stick to bland foods, such as bananas, plain toast, crackers or plain rice.
If there is blood in the stool, worsening abdominal pain, your child also has a fever and a rash, if the diarrhea lasts for more than 7 to 10 days, or you are worried that your child is becoming dehydrated, please give us a call.