pediatric urgent care ChattanoogaOh the stomach bug… it is the black plague of many homes. The stomach flu or gastroenteritis is an infection and inflammation of the intestines. While it only lasts a few days, it brings with it vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, fever and abdominal pain.

Children fall victim to the stomach bug frequently because there are a variety of viruses that can cause it. The most common offenders are rotavirus and norovirus. In most cases the stomach flu can be treated at home. Seek treatment if the illness has occurred longer than 2 days in children under the age of 2 or if there is blood in the vomit or stool.

Just like there are different viruses that can cause the illness, there are several different symptoms associated with it. Some children just experience a stomach ache and decrease in appetite while others have more severe reactions. While the symptoms of the stomach bug are similar to food poisoning, the onset isn’t as rapid and can last between 3 to 5 days.

The main concern with the stomach bug is that it can lead to dehydration. Keep your sick child hydrated by giving them small amounts of clear liquids like water or Pedialyte frequently. Try an ounce every 20 minutes. Signs of dehydration include infrequent urination, dry mouth and decreased tear production. When your child starts feeling hungry, the best thing to feed them is bananas, rice, toast, applesauce or crackers. Start by feeding them one food at a time until you know how they will react to it.

It seems that when one person falls victim to the bug, everyone catches it. Your child is contagious the entire time they are experiencing symptoms and up to 24 hours afterwards. The illness is spread through saliva and indirect contact. To help prevent the spread of the stomach bug wash your hands frequently and sanitize toys and commonly touched objects like doorknobs. Your child should only return to school if they are symptom free, eating and feeling well.

There is no way to completely avoid the stomach bug. Children touch everything and frequently put germ filled objects in their mouth. To help prevent the illness, frequently wash hands and use hand sanitizer when necessary. It is a challenge, but try to keep your child from putting things in their mouths.