Gastroenteritis in Children with 5 Soothing Options

Gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu, is a medical condition due to inflammation of the digestive tract. Its symptoms are a combination of diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, acute abdominal pain and cramps. Vomiting can pass quickly but the diarrhea may last up to 10 days. Gastroenteritis may result in dehydration which could be dangerous for very young children.

What Causes Gastroenteritis in Children?

Gastroenteritis in children is caused primarily by rotavirus – a type of virus which affects mainly infants and young children. Rotavirus is passed along in the stool of an infected person. The rotavirus can transfer to food, objects or surfaces touched by an infected person who doesn’t wash hands after going to the toilet. If someone else eats the contaminated food or touches a contaminated object and then contacts his mouth, the person may become ill.

Children are particularly vulnerable because they like touching things and often forget to wash their hands. Besides, their body hasn’t yet built up resistance to rotavirus. Most infections occur among kids under the age of four. Resistance can be built after every infection so illness gets less severe each time. Nearly every child in the world has been affected by rotavirus at least once until the age of five.

Gastroenteritis may also be caused by bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella, or by food poisoning.

Symptoms of Gastroenteritis in Children

Symptoms of gastroenteritis are rather acute and painful. They include:

  • Lack of appetite, unwillingness to eat or drink
  • Vomiting. It is most common during the first 24 to 48 hours
  • Diarrhea which lasts one week or more
  • Severe pain in the stomach
  • Fever with temperature 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher with infants up to 3 months of age, and 102.2 degrees for kids older than 3 months

It’s mandatory to call a doctor with the following symptoms:

  • If your child gets uncommonly drowsy
  • If your child starts to vomit blood
  • The diarrhea becomes bloody
  • Shows symptoms of dehydration, such as dry mouth and skin, dry and sunken eyes, crying without tears, cold hands and feet, fast breathing. If you have an infant, take care of the symptoms like sunken and soft spot on its head. And be alert when your infant hasn’t wetted its nappies for more than three hours.
  • A fever which lasts more than one day if the child is under 2 years old and lasting three days or more for children older than 2 years of age.

How to Deal With Gastroenteritis in Children

Unless you notice the severe symptoms stated above which require professional care, there are several ways to handle gastroenteritis on your own.

1. Give Lots of Fluids to Your Child

The most important thing is that the kid drinks many liquids. This is to compensate for the dehydration caused by the diarrhea and intense vomiting. Continue giving the child liquids even if you notice that the diarrhea gets worse. Do not make him refrain from drinking if he is thirsty. Gastrolyte, Hydralyte, Pedialyte and Repalyte are different types of oral rehydration fluid that can be used to replace fluids and body salts. These are the best options if your child is dehydrated. For mild condition without dehydration you can also give water or cordial mixed with water. However, do not give energizing drinks, Lucosade, undiluted lemonade, cordials or fruit juices.

2. Perform the Right Procedure of Baby Feeding

Since the infant is infectious, keep strict hygiene with any contact with your infant. Wash your hands with soap and warm water before feeding him or after replacing nappies. If you are breastfeeding, keep on doing so but then feed the baby more often. You may also turn to some oral rehydration substance. If you are bottle-feeding, you may give rehydration solution or clear liquids for the first 12 hours, and then proceed with normal formula in small but frequent amounts. And remember to give some drink to your baby each time he vomits.

3. Offer Food When Needed

The child may refuse to eat at first. There is no need to concern if only he drinks clear fluids. Doctors advise not to restrict food because of the diarrhea. If the kid wants to eat at any time, give him the food he likes. Do not withhold him from eating for more than 24 hours.

4. Separate Your Child from Other Children If Possible

Separate your child from other children if possible, which helps prevent infection and spreading infection. Try to keep your child away from other kids until the diarrhea has stopped.

5. Avoid Medicines to Cure Diarrhea and Vomiting

Do not try to reduce vomiting or diarrhea by giving medicines. They will do no good and even be harmful.

How to Prevent Gastroenteritis in Children

Gastroenteritis can easily be passed from one person to another. So you should take all the precautions for yourself and your child to reduce this risk.

1. Urge Your Child to Wash Hands

Make sure your child washes their hands with warm water and soap every time after going to the toilet. Ideally use liquid soap but any kind will do. Make the hands dry thoroughly after washing.

2. Try to Breastfeed

If possible, try to breastfeed your baby instead of bottle-feeding. Breast-fed babies are much less likely to get infected with gastroenteritis than bottle-fed ones. The reasons are obvious: the breast-fed baby practically has no contact with infected food. And if the parent is careful enough, the contacts with infected objects and surfaces can also be reduced to minimum.

3. Immunize Your Baby

An effective vaccine against the insidious rotavirus can be used to prevent the main culprit for gastroenteritis in children. In the UK the immunization of babies against rotavirus has now been made a routine. Since September 2013, two and three months babies have been given drops to prevent rotavirus along with their regular vaccination.

4. More Precautions

Some precautions can be taken to prevent other members from getting gastroenteritis if your baby is already infected. Insist that all family members follow strict personal hygiene rules. 

Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap after changing the baby’s diapers and before cooking, serving or consuming food.

More questions about gastroenteritis in children will be answered in this video: