Stomach Bugs

Stomach bugs are generally viral infections in the gastrointestinal tract. You can get a stomach virus from touching an infected person or surface with the virus on it and not washing your hands. Another way to get a stomach virus is if you eat a food or drink liquids with the virus in it. If someone has a virus and they do not wash their hands, they spread the virus to foods and liquids they touch.

Symptoms of a stomach virus include any combination of the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Fever

  • Belly pain or cramping

  • Loss of appetite

  • Headache

What can you do to help your child feel better?

The best thing to do is to keep your child well-hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. If your child has diarrhea and vomiting they can loose too much water, which is called dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include dark urine or decreased wet diapers, feeling tired, dizzy, or confused. Babies and young children are more likely to get severe dehydration.

Some fluids help prevent dehydration better than others:

● Older children can drink sports drinks.

● You can give babies and young children an "oral rehydration solution," such as Pedialyte. You can buy this in a store or pharmacy.

● Babies who breastfeed can continue to breastfeed.

Children with a stomach virus should avoid drinking juice, soda, or milk. These can make diarrhea worse. If your child is vomiting only give a teaspoon (5mL) of fluids every 10-15 minutes to slowly hydrate. If you drink too much liquid too quickly, then you run the risk of vomiting before the body can absorb it. It is important to keep fluids down for several hours before considering introducing foods into your child’s diet.

If you can keep food down, it's best to eat lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain breads and cereals. Avoid eating foods with a lot of fat or sugar and dairy, which can make symptoms worse.

Do not give medicines to stop diarrhea to children. These medications will prolong your child’s stomach virus.

One medication that can help is a doing a probiotic once daily to help to realign your child’s gut bacteria.

Call your doctor or nurse if your child:

  • Has any symptoms of dehydration

  • Has diarrhea or vomiting that lasts longer than a 3-4 days

  • Vomits up blood, has bloody diarrhea, or has severe belly pain

  • Hasn't had anything to drink in 4-6 hours

  • Hasn't needed to urinate in the past 8 hours, or if your baby or young child hasn't had a wet diaper for 6 hours

To lower the chance of getting or spreading the infection, you can:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water after you use the bathroom or change your child's diaper, and before you eat.

  • Avoid changing your child's diaper near where you prepare food.

  • Make sure your baby gets the rotavirus vaccine. Vaccines can prevent certain serious or deadly infections. Rotavirus is a virus that commonly causes a stomach virus in children.