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The dreaded stomach bug. I shudder to even whisper its name. It can put a damper on anybody’s summer plans.
What are the typical symptoms? And what can you expect when the inevitable hits your house?
Common stomach bug symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and fever, but any combination of these can manifest. Older children and adults will typically have very different symptoms and duration than younger children, even within the same household.
Vomiting in younger children, although it is traumatic to witness as a parent, is usually very short-lived when compared to adults. An adult may become extremely miserable with a stomach bug, however children will often return to baseline in between bouts of their symptoms, which can be very confusing to parents.
Typically, diarrhea hits younger children more so than vomiting. For the first few days of illness, their diarrhea can be intense. It will then likely decrease to a few times a day, but can also take up to ten days to return to baseline.
Proper hydration is a parent’s biggest tool to help the child with a stomach bug. Signs of good hydration are drool, presence of tears, and wet diapers. Keep in mind that keeping a small child hydrated takes fewer fluids than would be the case for adults. Small children generally only need a few sips of fluids an hour to maintain proper hydration. Older and larger children may require a bit more, but it is often easier to manage than one may think.
When children have a stomach bug, they may lose their appetite, and that is okay. As long as they are taking in some fluids, then it is alright to not have a full meal while sick. Follow your child’s lead regarding appetite when offering food. Kids are generally quite good at regulating when they may want to start eating again, and what they may want to eat.
You’ll probably want to call your pediatrician if your child is listless, continuously vomiting for longer than a few hours without tolerating even sips of fluids, has diarrhea greater than 6-8 times a day for longer than 2-3 days, or if they are just not improving after a few days of illness.