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Stomach flu in children

Stomach flu in children

If your child has a tummy ache, diarrhea or is vomiting suddenly, you often think that they have the stomach flu. However, what’s often called the stomach flu is really a case of gastroenteritis, an infection of the stomach and intestines.

Gastroenteritis may be caused by a variety of viruses including adenovirus, norovirus and rotavirus, just to name a few.

As a side note: The flu, or influenza, rarely causes stomach issues (vomiting and diarrhea); it generally causes sore throats, general aches and pains and more. 

Usually symptoms of gastroenteritis are vomiting, diarrhea, stomachaches and possibly fever; or, what your child will often say, “not feeling well.”

How gastroenteritis spreads

A child can catch the virus when they touch something that has been in contact with the diarrhea or vomit of a person with the infection, and they put their hand in their mouth. The virus is easily spread in homes, daycare, kindergartens and schools. Unfortunately this also means that the virus can spread to family members easily.

Some people can carry the virus and not get sick with it, but can give it to someone else unknowingly. If your child is going to get sick, he/she will usually start showing signs of illness within one day. Vomiting may settle quickly but the diarrhea can last for up to 10 days.

Treatment for stomach flu

Due to vomiting and diarrhea, the largest concern from gastroenteritis is dehydration, so it’s important to keep your toddler or older child hydrated. Signs of dehydration can include:

  • Crankiness
  • Crying without tears
  • Dry mouth (no saliva)
  • Fever over 102 F
  • Lack of energy
  • Not urinating or lack of bowel movements

If your child is vomiting, offer small amounts of clear liquids until your child does not vomit for at least five hours. Clear liquids include water, broth, ginger ale, Sprite, Gatorade, Pedialyte, vitamin waters and flavored waters, as well as items like popsicles and Jell-O. Keep children away from milk. It can make stomach problems worse. Drinks that have a lot of acid (orange juice) or caffeine can also cause belly problems and discomfort.

For diarrhea, stop all juices and limit highly sugary things like large amounts of Gatorade.

Things get a bit more complicated for infants under 1 year old as well as tiny tots, so please consult with your child’s pediatrician or health care provider for instructions.

If your child has persistent vomiting that will not go away, you see blood or mucus in their stool, or they look lethargic and dehydrated seek medical attention immediately.

Please keep your child home from school or daycare if they are sick. If you have any concerns or questions, please always take your child to their pediatrician or health care provider to get checked out.

Holly Hink, APRN, CPNP, works at the Campbell County Medical Group Kid Clinic, a school-based pediatric clinic in Gillette, Wyoming. It is located at 800 Butler Spaeth Rd., across from St. Matthew’s Catholic Church. The Kid Clinic is open Monday-Friday from 8 am-5 pm. For more information, call 307-688-8700 or visit www.cchwyo.org/kidclinic.