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Children's Health

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The Truth About Stomach Flu

It’s not really the flu, but gastroenteritis.

Treatment continued...

Introduce food slowly. Once your child can drink liquid and keep it down, you can start adding food. But keep it bland. Try bread, potatoes, plain yogurt, crackers, rice, toast, and bananas first. Once you know those are going down okay, you can try lean meat and cooked vegetables.

Don't give your sick child foods that are fried, spicy, fatty, or have a lot of acid. They can make stomach problems worse.

Skip over-the-counter meds. With gastroenteritis, time really is the best medicine. Watching your child suffer may tempt you to give him over-the-counter medicines. As hard as it is, don't do it. Not only will most medications not help, they may even make it worse.

Ibuprofen can upset your child's stomach even more, and acetaminophen can cause liver problems. Antibiotics don't help against viruses (although they do against bacteria). And anti-diarrhea medicines can make the infection last longer. They can also be dangerous for very young children.

There is one exception: If your child has a fever, you can give them acetaminophen or Ibuprofen to bring it down. Other than that, stick with fluids and bland foods.

When to See Your Doctor

Most cases of gastroenteritis go away on their own. See the doctor if the vomiting and diarrhea continues more than a few days, or if you notice any signs of dehydration like:

  • Not urinating
  • Dry mouth
  • Crying without tears
  • Fever over 102 F
  • Lack of energy
  • Crankiness
  • Soft spot on the top of the baby's head is sunken.
  • Blood or pus in stool, or dark tarry stool

Your child may need to get checked sooner if they have other conditions, such as diabetes, that put them at higher risk for fluid loss.

Prevention Is the Best Medicine

Follow these easy steps.

  • Get your child vaccinated against rotavirus, which is the most common cause of gastroenteritis.
  • Wash hands often with warm soap and water, especially when you use the bathroom, change diapers, and before and after you handle food. "Good soap and water hand-washing is probably our best protection," Nowalk says.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them. Cook meat all the way through. This may prevent gastroenteritis caused by bacteria.
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Reviewed on July 22, 2015

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