Surviving the Stomach Bug: Parent Edition
Vomiting, diarrhea, chills and aches…stomach bugs are never a fun adventure.
Often times called the stomach flu, stomach viruses are actually not influenza, typically. Most of the time, it is caused by viruses such as rotavirus, adenovirus and echovirus. Nonetheless, it can make for a miserable experience for children and their caregivers. However, with the right approach, lots of love and a few days to recover, it is typically not a serious illness. Most stomach viruses tend to last between 3 and 7 days. Staying on top of dehydration and keeping your child comfortable is the most important part of care. Of course, like any illness, if you are concerned or need advice, your pediatrician can provide guidance and further treatment plans.
Provide clear fluids that your child will take. Clear fluids can include electrolyte solutions such as Pedialyte or Gatorade, fruit drinks, popsicles, broth, jello, ginger ale, or clear sodas. Avoid caffeinated beverages because they increase urination and promote dehydration. Also be cautious of drinking large amounts of juice, as this may promote diarrhea. If your child is still bottle or breast fed, they may still tolerate small amounts at a time. If not tolerated, electrolyte solutions and other clear fluids will keep them hydrated. Your doctor can help with suggestions.
Keep it slow and small.
Providing small amounts of food and drink will help minimize vomiting. Start with a teaspoon amount. This can be given as a sip, a spoonful, a bite of a popsicle, a few sucks from a bottle or sippy or any way your child wants it. Try to make it fun to encourage hydration. Your child may be hungry and want more, but keeping it slow is still best. Wait 15 minutes between “teaspoonfuls”. Keep track of how much your child is keeping down. If your child vomits, wait 15-30 minutes, then start back at a teaspoon. If they are tolerating the small amounts, increase to a few teaspoons after an hour, and continue to increase in small increments. As your child starts to feel hungry and is tolerating clear fluids, you can begin to offer bland foods such as rice cereal, toast or crackers, bananas, noodle soup or, applesauce. If your child just has diarrhea, adding yogurt with active cultures may help relieve the symptoms. Again, avoid foods and drinks that promote loose stools such as apples, grapes and prunes.
Keep your child comfortable.
Aches and fevers can be treated with acetaminophen and/or ibuprofen products. As always, avoid aspirin in children. If these products are not tolerated orally, rectal acetaminophen is a great alternative.
Signs of success
If you have successfully maintained hydration, your child should urinate at a minimum of one wet diaper or one bathroom trip every 8 hours. If it has been more than 8 hours, it is time to consult the doctor. Remember, if your child has diarrhea, this will count as output. Often, the fluids accounted for in urination will not be present due to the diarrhea. If your child is well-hydrated, their mouth inside the cheek and gum area will remain moist and eyes will appear moist and not sunken in appearance and tears will be present with crying. If you notice that this is not the case, please consult your child’s doctor. Any severe pain, blood in the vomit or stool, persistent fever or prolonged symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor. Good hand-washing, sanitizing of eating and drinking utensils and sanitizing of toys will keep the spread of illness to a minimum. As always, if you have any questions or uncertainty, please consult your child’s doctor.