When kids pack together in close quarters like schools and indoor play spaces, it facilitates the spread of germs.
One of the most common challenges for parents is germs that lead to stomach bugs.
While many refer to these uncomfortable bouts of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea as “stomach flu,” it’s not the flu at all. Officially called gastroenteritis, the most common culprits are viruses, bacteria like E. coli or salmonella, and some kinds of parasites.
While no parent likes to see their child in discomfort, these illnesses are usually short-lived. They are the second most common illness your kid will get, aside from upper respiratory infections like the common cold. Waiting it out is tough, but there are things you can do to ease their discomfort and prevent potential complications. Here’s what you need to know.
Treat Your Child at Home First
It can be tempting to run your child to the doctor if they have a fever or have trouble holding food down. While some children with gastroenteritis do require care from their pediatrician, don’t schedule a trip to the doctor just yet. Some stomach bugs, such as those caused by rotavirus or norovirus, are extremely contagious. Keep your child home, and call the office with any questions or concerns.
When your child is battling a stomach bug, you may notice any of the following symptoms:
- Vomiting (more than spit-up in babies)
- Watery diarrhea
- Decreased appetite
Older kids may also complain of stomach cramps, headache, or muscle aches. While these symptoms are unpleasant, they should subside in 12 to 48 hours. It is fine to offer Tylenol or ibuprofen, but sometimes the best medicine is a warm bath and time.
Know When to Call a Doctor
While these symptoms themselves don’t cause lasting problems, they can lead to dehydration, which can become severe. Call a doctor right away if:
- There’s as significant decrease in urine output (less than 3 wet diapers a day or more than eight hours without peeing for older kids).
- Extremely dark urine.
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea that lasts for more than 24 hours.
- Green bile or bloody bile.
- Your baby under three months has a rectal temperature of 100.4 or higher
Even during the worst of the vomiting, you want to offer liquids. Wait 15 minutes after your child vomits and offer a tablespoon of water or Pedialyte. The take home point is to go slow! If your child guzzles a large amount of fluid, there’s a good chance it’ll come right back up.