Oh No! My Child Has A Stomach Bug!
A pediatrician offers tips on treating virus and keeping your child hydrated
One of the worst illnesses to take care of as a parent can be a stomach virus. Especially with babies and toddlers, vomit and poop gets everywhere. Also, they just get a look of fear on their face because they don’t understand what is happening.
The biggest challenge with vomiting and diarrhea is keeping the kids hydrated. After a big episode of vomiting they feel thirsty, and you want to replace the fluids. As a parent in this situation, you have to go against your instincts and not give them fluids right away. It is best to wait 1-2 hours after the vomiting episode before trying to give them fluids, otherwise it will all come back at you from a very irritated tummy.
To rehydrate, and keep the new fluids down:
- Give the stomach time to settle, we recommend waiting 2 hours.
- Start with just sips of water, electrolyte drink, breast milk, formula, or other fluid based on the age of your child.
- Offer sips every 20 minutes for 2 hours, and if they keep this down increase the amount of fluid slowly.
- Once they have kept down fluids for 8 hours then you can offer food.
The vomiting usually passes in the first 24-48 hours of the viral illness, and then can be followed by diarrhea for another 5-7 days on average. The diarrhea can last up to 2 weeks with a viral stomach bug. During this time use good hand hygiene, and avoid sharing food and drink so that the virus does not spread.
Watch for signs of dehydration:
- Urinating less than 4 times in 24 hours.
- The area under tongue looks sticky instead of moist with saliva.
- They are crying without tears.
If your child is having signs of dehydration or the diarrhea is lasting longer than expected, has blood in it, or other concerning signs then call your pediatrician to see if your child needs to be evaluated in the office.
While dealing with a stomach bug can be a miserable 24 hours or more, I can reassure you that you can get thru it safely at home in most cases. Just stick to your hydration plan, and prepare for many loads of laundry.
Eriel Hayes, M.D. joined Cook Children's in 2012 and is a pediatrician at Forest Park. Dr. Hayes grew up in Denton, Texas, and attended the University of North Texas for her undergrad. She then attended medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, and did her internship and residency in pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. She is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Fort Worth Pediatric Society.