Stomach Flu in toddlers and how to treat them

When your little one is down with stomach flu, it is indeed very troubling for parents. You want to wave a magic wand and make the flu go away! While we wish that was possible, it’s not! So let’s understand what stomach flu in toddlers is and how to treat them.

Scientifically called gastroenteritis, stomach flu is an infection of the digestive system. This is a totally different kind of flu not to be confused with the regular flu (which is influenza and affects a toddler’s respiratory system)

How does stomach flu affect toddlers?

After infections like cough, colds and ear infections, stomach flu is the most common type of infection seen in young kids. Unpleasant, yes but stomach flu is normally not a very serious disease. Stomach flu can be caused by both viruses and from bacteria like salmonella and E. coli. These will cause inflammation in your child’s stomach and digestive tract. Symptoms include the following

Symptoms of Stomach Flu in Toddlers.

  • Mild or High Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fussiness and irritability (more than usual)
  • Looks more tired and sluggish (not as active)
  • Decreased or no appetite

Slightly older children can also begin to complain of stomach cramps and pain in muscles. These symptoms are visible within three days and can last upto a maximum of ten days.  While the symptoms themselves are unpleasant to deal with, the most important thing to be on the lookout for and avoid is dehydration.

Adenovirus, Enterovirus and Astrovirus are all common types of bugs which can cause stomach flu in children. One type of bug called Rotavirus and is considered more harmful as it makes children sicker, which is why a Rotavirus vaccine is prescribed in your child’s immunization chart.  As with any kind of virus, there is no quick treatment, how much ever you may wish it! The virus will run its course and all mommies can really do it wait it out. Make your toddler drink lots of fluids as dehydration can set in pretty quickly.

Stomach flu is communicable and contagious. Playgrounds and daycare where your kiddo may have played with an already infected child is one of the main ways that this virus spreads. In case of a bacterial infection the flu is contracted through consuming contaminated food or water.

Helping you toddler overcome stomach flu

We know no parent wants to hear this, but there is no particular treatment for stomach flu caused by a virus – it just has to run its course. A stomach flu caused by bacteria or a parasite can be treated through anti-biotics under the supervision of your child’s pediatrician.   

Stomach flu causes loss of a lot of fluids and nutrients. You can help your kiddo feel better and recover faster using some of the following ways.  

Keep him on a steady diet of fluids and liquids. 
If your toddler is still breastfeeding, then allow him to feed as often as he likes. Breast milk is digested very easily and the stomach of your little one will be able to tolerate it well. The antibodies in breast milk will help him/her recover faster, by strengthening his immune system.

Keep making him drink lots of water. Your doctor may also prescribe some ORS which are better absorbed by the body. ORS solutions help to replenish the important salts that are lost by the body during diarrhea or vomiting.  Always have some ORS packets on hand, at home as kids do need them now and then.

Water chicken soup, vegetable stock, fruit or vegetable purees are good food options at the time. They will provide energy as well as liquids to your toddler.

Toddlers may have a hard time keeping fluids down, so stick to small and frequent doses. Try coaxing him/her to take a tablespoon every five to ten minutes. This will help to rebalance the fluid, salt and sugar levels in the body, which actually helps to stop the vomiting.

Try to get back to a normal diet as soon as possible 

It’s never nice to see your kiddo throw up the food you so lovingly prepared, but try not to worry about it too much. Once you begin to feel that his stomach is calming down (the frequency of vomiting or diarrhea has reduced) start giving some semi solids or easy to digest food like bananas, rice, applesauce or toast also known as the BART diet. Try to avoid all fatty and processed food which is harder to digest and make diarrhea worse. Freshly prepared homemade food is best.

Bring down the fever

Fever is a signal that your toddler’s body is trying to fight the infection. Fever may make your toddler uncomfortable. Use a cold compress and other home remedies to bring down fever naturally. In case of a high temperature, consult your doctor before giving any kind of medication.

Sleep is the best medicine

Resting and sleeping is one of the best ways to recover. Your child would be low on energy and wanting to sleep more. Let him nap whenever he wants, but be sure to keep feeding him with fluids.   

Has your child suffered from stomach flu? How did you treat it? Share below?