(image courtesy of parenting.com)
Stomach bugs – just about everyone gets one at some point. But what are they? What’s the best treatment? When does my child need to be seen in the doctor’s office? When can they return to school and other activities? Some of our most common questions are answered below…
- What causes the symptoms? Usually, gastroenteritis is caused by a virus; the most common ones are Rotavirus and Norovirus. Gastroenteritis is NOT caused by an influenza (flu) virus, but is often referred to as the “stomach flu.”
- How do I prevent it? Just like many other viruses, hygiene is your friend. Warm water and soap are best at preventing the spread. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can sometimes help, but Norovirus can survive even after being exposed these gels.
- Oh, no! We got the bug! What do we do now? In most cases, the symptoms last about 24-48 hours. Clean up after the sick person, including their towel and bed linens. Wash down any surfaces they have contacted, particularly the toilet, countertops, and other surfaces in the bathroom.
- Is my child going to get dehydrated? If it has been more than an hour since the last vomiting episode, you may try sips of clear fluids; sips means about a teaspoon at a time. Things like Pedialyte, ginger ale, or ice chips are a good place to start. If these are tolerated, continue with clear fluids only for at least a few hours. Avoid fruit juice, as it can make diarrhea worse.
- When can he eat again? Going back to solid foods too early can trigger an encore of vomiting. Ease back into solid food slowly, starting with plain foods like crackers and broth
- Should we come to the office? In most cases, no. The illness is self-limiting, meaning that it gets better on its own with minimal interventions. There is not a medicine to treat the illness, as it is a virus and will not respond to antibiotics. However, there are a few reasons you should come in – if the vomiting lasts longer than 48 hours, if there is blood in the vomit or stool, or if your child has not had any urine output in 8 hours.
- When can she go back to school? Children must be fever-free for at least 24 hours without fever-reducing medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) before returning to school and other activities. Most schools often require that children have been free of vomiting/diarrhea for at 24 hours as well.