What to do if your kids have a stomach bug

January 23, 2018


We’re in heart of flu season and as a concerned parent, it can be challenging to decipher between flu symptoms and those of a common stomach bug.


Vomiting and diarrhea are the hallmarks of viral gastroenteritis (often called the stomach flu).  It typically lasts one to three days; sometimes lingering longer in young children. The best treatments are found at home. After a child vomits, it is best to wait 30 minutes or longer before beginning small sips of water or pedialyte (or breastmilk) every ten to 15 minutes. Large amounts of liquid will often bring on more vomiting, so expect that it may be at least one hour before a child can stomach one ounce of liquid. 


Although it’s common advice, Gatorade and sports or energy drinks should be avoided! Those drinks, along with soda and juices can increase diarrhea and disturb electrolytes. Some children prefer ice or pedialyte freezes.  


It is typically best to hold off on giving your child food until he or she has not vomited for at least four hours and is keeping down fluids well. This is often after 24 hours into the illness. For children with vomiting or diarrhea, small amounts of food are recommended at one sitting.  Foods with protein will help your child feel better faster, so offer things such as nut-butter toast, plain yogurt or eggs. Greasy foods should be avoided. 


If you’re still unsure or if your child is showing signs of dehydration, please call North Metro Pediatrics to speak to our nurse or make an appointment. Dehydration can come in many forms but common symptoms include very decreased urination, listlessness, dry eyes and mouth.


Please make an appointment for bloody diarrhea or vomiting, changes in child’s behaviors or awareness, severe pain in one location of the abdomen, symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, rash or high fever. 


Viral GI illnesses can be prevented through frequent and thorough hand-washing. These illnesses often pass through families quickly, so bathroom surfaces should be cleaned with a disinfectant and left on the surface for at least ten minutes before being wiped away.


Keep your child at home until 24 hours after the last episode of vomiting and they do not have more than two bowel movements more than the normal daily stools, unless advised otherwise by a healthcare provider or nurse.


Additional Resources

Diarrhea info from American Academy of Pediatrics

Vomiting info from American Academy of Pediatrics



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