How To Treat Your Child's Stomach Flu
You'll be surprised about the treatment of this nasty all too common childhood illness.
Somehow, it always happens in the worst place: Your toddler barely touches his breakfast, and five minutes later he throws up all over the living room floor. Or your baby wakes up wailing in the middle of the night after puking up her whole dinner in the crib. It's almost a given that stomach flue will strike your family sometime this season. And while this highly contagious illness usually doesn't require a trip to the pediatrician, most parents don't know all the facts about how best to treat their children at home. Read on for how to make your little one feel better fast.
It's not really the flu.
Although everyone refers to vomiting and diarrhea as stomach flu, these problems are usually caused by a gastrointestinal virus (a true flu is influenza, a respiratory infection), Rota-virus is the most common culprit in young children; by age 3, almost all kids will have had at least one run-in with this very contagious bug.
What else could it be?
Stomach flu in kids is almost always due to a virus, but the following bugs can also cause vomiting and diarrhea.
- Giardia Lamblia, a parasite, is spread through contaminated lake or pool water or from person to person. It may cause protracted but mild diarrhea and can be treated with antibiotics.
- E. Coli, Salmonella,Staphylococcus, and other bacterial infections are most often contracted from foods. They're rare but serious. Symptoms include blood in stools, a very high fever, diarrhea that gets better than worse and excessive sleepiness.
The First is the worst.
A child’s first stomach virus often strikes between 6 months and 24 months. And since her immune system hasn’t yet had to fight back against one of these bugs, the first infection will probably be her worst. The virus is passed through saliva or feces; your child may get it from a sibling, at day care, or at a birthday party. Vomit and low-grade fever (under 120 F) are the initial symptoms,followed by lingering diarrhea.
You’re not paranoid if you call the pediatrician
Though there’s nothing your doctor can prescribe to make your child feel better, it’s a good idea to check in with her when your child has the stomach flu, just to let her know how long it’s been going on. The younger your child is, the faster he can become seriously dehydrated. About 1 in50 children gets sick enough to see tea doctor.
The “24-hour bug”
Don’t panic if your child is sick longer than you expect. It’s a misconception that stomach bugs last only 24 hours. In fact, kids may throw up or feel nauseated for three days and then have diarrhea for a week. How long each bout last depends on the particular virus and on how your child’s intestines react to it.
Kids need more fluids than you think.
When your child is vomiting, your biggest concern should be keeping him hydrated. And water’s not good enough. Give babies and toddlers a teaspoonful of electrolytes solution every twenty minutes or so to replace the nutrients they’v lost. For bigger kids, measure an ounce of electrolytes solution into a sippy cup. If she keeps it down for fifteen minutes, then give another ounce. These small, frequent drinks will re-hydrate a child over a few hours. At this point, don’t worry about getting her to eat food.
You don’t have to stop breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding babies don’t need electrolytes solution and should continue to nurse right through the illness. In fact, nursing babies tend to get sick less from the stomach bugs, perhaps because of protective antibodies from Mom’s milk. Formula-fed babies should go back on the bottle once they stop vomiting.
Juice isn’t best for babies and toddlers.
Your child may balk at the taste of an electrolyte solution since it’s not as sweet as juice.Try making a slushy ( freezing the liquid partially, then stir it and serve with a spoon), or try offering a frozen electrolyte- solution pop. Unlike juice ( mostly sugar) electrolyte solution contains the right mix of sugars and minerals to help babies and toddlers’ delicate intestines absorb liquid. Stomach bus attack the lining of the intestines so they can’t do their job as well. Juice, soda, and spot drinks are fine for kids ages 6 and up. Get liquids into older kids anyway you can.
Don’t worry too much about fever.
There’s no rule against giving children’s acetaminophen to your little one if she has a low-grade fever, but there’s also no point in giving it if she’s vomiting. And ibuprofen may irritate the stomach further, so avoid it until your child’s nausea has passed.
It’s not over after throwing up.
Your child will start to feel better when he stops throwing up, but he may develop diarrhea. At this point, try to get him to eat, which will bulk up his stools. If you give him only electrolyte solution or juice for several days without much food, then can actually make the diarrhea worse. Offer small servings of plain, easy to digest foods ( banana, pasta, toast, rice, crackers, or apple sauce). If these stay down, add other low-fat, low sugar foods, including meats and dairy products Since the stomach bug can cause a temporary bout of lactose intolerance start with yogurt which is easier to digest. Offer milk a day later. Feeding your child well does help him get over the illness quicker.
You need to watch the bottom line.
If your child is still in diapers, except some diaper rash irritation from diarrhea. When you’re child’s bottom is sore, stop using wipes. Instead, use a soft paper towel moistened with water, or just rinse her off in the shower and let her air dry. Once she’s dry, apply a diaper rash ointment containing zinc-oxide, which will protect against further irritation. If irritation seems severe, call your pediatrician who can prescribe a higher dose zinc oxide ointment.
Medication might be dangerous.
Don’t use over-the-counter anti diarrhea or upset-stomach remedies. These medications don’t cure diarrhea, they just slow down the intestines, which in rare cases can lead to an overgrowth of the normally harmless bacteria that live in the gut. Additionally, remedies that contain salicylates, an aspirin like compound that can lead to a serious condition called Reye’s syndrome in children under 17.
Throwing up for more than three days isn’t normal.
Check in again with the doctor if:
- Vomiting lasts more than seven days
- If fever lasts more than seven days if
- Fever lasts more than two days
- If vomit green
- If you child has severe abdominal pains.
You can beat the bugs
Cut down on the number of infections your child gets by showing him how to wash his hands correctly and by making sure that family members always wash their hands after they use the bathroom and before they sit down to meals. It’s smart to avoid sharing food, cups, utensils, towels and other personal items, especially when a family member has a virus. You can’t prevent the spread of bugs completely, but when someone in your family is sick, it helps to be more vigilant. With any luck, you’ll get a nice long break before your child’s next bout with stomach flu.