We all know that children contract diseases much more easily than adults do. This is mainly because of their immune system. Their bodies are just starting to develop so they’d be capable on fending off these diseases.
But before they’d be able to do that, they still have to go through that phase where they are more vulnerable.
One of the most common diseases in children is the stomach flu.
What is Stomach Flu?
Stomach flu is a viral infection that attacks the digestive system. Although we commonly call it a “flu”, its symptoms are actually quite different to influenza.
Scientifically known as gastroenteritis, it owns the spot of being second in the most common illnesses children get, colds being the number one.
What do you have to know in order to prevent or treat stomach flu?
The most common cause of stomach flu in children is rotavirus. It usually affects kids from 2 to 6 years of age. Just like other stomach bugs, it’s very easy to spread rotavirus from one kid or adult to another. All it takes for a child to contract it is to touch the infected individual or the things they’ve been in contact to. The most common breeding ground for these viruses are schools, playgrounds, daycare centers, etc.
The first stomach flu symptoms that you’ll notice in your child are vomiting, fever, and diarrhea.
They may also complain of feeling cramps and aches all over their body. These symptoms generally show around one to three days after your child has contracted the virus.
Now we know how our children get stomach flu. How can we prevent it?
It’s very important that you practice proper hygiene at home. Teach your children to make it a habit to wash their hands.
Even with all the reminders from health professionals and organizations, the fact of the matter is we don’t put importance on hand-washing as much as we should. And this is precisely shown by the fact that we only encourage hand-washing after going to the bathroom and before and after meals.
Make it a point that everyone in your family washes their hands after coming home. Viruses could be everywhere—malls, schools, even hospitals. Avoid passing germs by practicing proper hygiene.
Since it is where most children get the bug, you also have to make sure that they are taught to wash their hands at school. Cooperation between teachers and parents can go a long way in terms of keeping the children safe from sickness.
Washing of hands and overall proper hygiene might not be enough because rotavirus is quite resistant. This is why vaccines gained prominence over the years.
The rotavirus vaccine is developed to prevent four most common strains of the bug, this means that there is still a possibility that your child will get stomach flu. It can be administered to the baby through 3 oral doses: one at 2mos, one at 4 mos, and one at 6 mos.
Although responsible to reducing deaths by gastroenteritis up to almost 50%, the vaccine may not work for all children. If administered to children with suppressed immune system, it may backfire and cause illnesses.
If this is your first time hearing about the rotavirus, it’s important that you know not just its benefits but also its possible side effects, limitations, etc. To get answers to questions frequently asked about the rotavirus vaccine, you might want to check out this post by Immunization Action Coalition.
Stomach Flu Treatment
Just like most viral infections, stomach flu just has to run its course for your child to get completely healed. No treatment is available to eliminate the bug. The most you can do is make sure that your child is still able to get all the nutrients they need.
Children with stomach flu get dehydrated very easily so it’s important to supply them with fluids. There are rehydrating drinks that you can give your toddler. They are effective in providing the lost sugars and salts. If your child is having difficulty taking in fluids, you can give it to them in little amounts. Say, a teaspoon every 2 minutes.
Once your child’s vomiting has started to die down, you can begin giving them foods that are easy to digest. Examples are rice, potatoes, banana, and egg whites. Avoid foods that are hard to digest like sweet and fatty stuff. These can actually make the diarrhea a lot worse.
You may not be able to expel the virus, but you can alleviate your child’s discomfort by managing their fever. For this, you can have them take ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Don’t worry if your child is sleeping much more than usual. This is normal for kids who have stomach flu.
What to avoid
Aside from the ones that lessen the fever, no other medications are advised by experts. Many encourage that you avoid medications that treat diarrhea because they only weaken the digestive system. To be safe, consult your doctor before giving your child any drug.
When is it going to last?
Stomach flu usually lasts up to 10 days but there are also cases when it can last just a day or 2. The diarrhea, however, normally lasts for around a week.
If your child is still showing the symptoms after the usual number of days, you may want to go to the doctor. It is possible that they are suffering from a different medical condition.