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Surviving Stomach Viruses

Author: CHKD Medical Group, Dr. Erica Willis
Published Date: Monday, October 05, 2020

By Dr. Erica Willis, Pediatric Associates

The coronavirus has everyone’s attention right now, but it’s not the only virus in town.

Stomach viruses also are circulating, and now that some children are back in school, they’re more likely to pick up a stomach bug. The medical term for a stomach bug is “viral gastroenteritis.” It’s best not to refer to it as “stomach flu” because the flu is a different virus.

Here’s what you need to know:

How can I keep my child from getting a stomach bug?

Some of the same measures that protect children from COVID-19 will work against stomach viruses, too. Handwashing and keeping things clean are two of the best defenses from getting sick with a stomach bug. This is particularly true when preparing food and eating.

How long does a stomach virus last?

Vomiting in a child with a typical stomach virus usually doesn’t last more than 24 hours. Diarrhea can last a few days, however.

What can I do to help my child?

Children tend to vomit more than adults, perhaps because of an easy gag reflex. Vomiting is a protective reaction to clear the infection from the stomach and intestines.

For the first 24 hours, keep sick children off solid foods and encourage them to drink small sips of water, or suck on ice chips. Popsicles and gelatin water work well, too. An oral rehydration solution, available at pharmacies without a prescription, may also help.

While missing a meal or two will not harm children, make sure they continue to drink water to make up for the fluid loss and prevent dehydration.

Ease back into eating solid food with bland, easy-to-digest foods, such as soda crackers, toast, gelatin, bananas, rice, and chicken. Avoid dairy products and fatty or highly seasoned foods.

How can I keep the virus from spreading to other family members?

Everyone should be washing their hands frequently with soap and water. If you’re caring for your sick child, do your best to keep your hands washed. Change the sheets and clean up areas of vomit immediately after helping your child. Soapy warm water works best. Wash surfaces immediately, use hot water for the wash, and high heat in the dryer.

In addition to soap and water, consider using a diluted bleach solution to clean hard surfaces.

What if my child doesn’t stop vomiting after 24 hours?

If your child becomes too sick to drink, is listless, or shows signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, fewer tears, or urinating less frequently, call your pediatrician.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.

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