The Stomach Bug Survival Guide

It’s back…the dreaded stomach bug. We are seeing an increasing number of children with symptoms of the stomach bug over the last two weeks.  It’s is highly likely that at some point in your child’s life you will be dealing with vomiting and diarrhea. Luckily, most of theses episodes are self limited and only require supportive care. Below is a guide to help get you through this difficult time period.


What is the stomach bug?

The medical term for the stomach bug is gastroenteritis. This describes a group of viruses that can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Both children and adults can get the stomach bug.

What are the symptoms of the stomach bug?

Typical symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Your child may have some of these symptoms or various combinations of symptoms. They will also likely have increased gassiness and decreased appetite. The symptoms can vary in severity and duration from child to child.

My baby is vomiting what can I do?

Immediately after your child vomits, take a break and do not provide any liquids for 45-60 minutes. Your child’s stomach is irritated and needs a break.  After 45 minutes of belly rest, you should try to give your child a small amount of a clear liquid (water, juice, electrolyte waters, breast milk). Organic coconut water based electrolyte drinks such as Ella’s Kitchen Coconut Water with Pear and Berries is an excellent choice. At Premier Pediatrics, we encourage small frequent amounts of fluids. If your child drinks too much volume at this point, they will likely vomit again. Start with ½ to 1 ounce of liquid. If your child tolerates this then continue to give 1 ounce every 15 minutes until you reach 4-5 ounces. At this point, take a break and repeat this process in 2-3 hours. For older children, using a straw can help limit the amount of fluid they take in at once.

Once your child has tolerated clear liquids for 4-6 hours, you can advance to formula or milk. It is still important to give small amounts at a time. Your child’s stomach is irritated, if they drink 6 ounces of fluid there is a good chance they will vomit again. You may continue to advance the diet as tolerated, sticking to blander foods in the beginning. If your child can not tolerate one of the above steps, return to the previous step and try again.

How can I help my child with diarrhea?

When your child is having diarrhea you should try and stick to a blander diet though there is no need to be terribly restrictive. The exception to this is if your child is having vomiting and diarrhea at the same time, in which case you should follow the recommendations above. If you find that specific foods are worsening your child’s symptoms you will want to avoid them. The BRAT (bananas, rice, apple sauce, tea and toast) alone is not recommended anymore as there is no evidence that it makes your child’s symptoms resolve any faster. If the diarrhea is lasting more than 2-3 days you can start your child on a probiotic. Some studies have shown that probiotics can shorten the severity and duration of diarrhea. DO NOT use any anti-diarrheal medications unless specifically advised to do so by your pediatrician.

How can I prevent the stomach bug?

The stomach bug is highly contagious. The best method of prevention is good hand hygiene. Frequent hand washing is the best way. Do not allow your child to share food or beverages with other people and if someone is sick in the house do not share towels. You should also wash toys that your child is playing with while sick.

How can I tell if my child is dehydrated?

Dehydration is a term a doctor uses when the body has lost too much water. Having enough water in your body is important in keeping the body functioning normally. Symptoms of dehydration include:

-decreased urination

-crying without tears

-extreme tiredness

-very dry mouth and tongue

When should I call my doctor?

-vomiting lasting greater than 48 hours

-if your child vomits anything green like the color of a Christmas tree

-if your child has not urinated in >6-8 hours (not including if they are dry overnight)

-bloody diarrhea

-diarrhea lasting > 7 days

-severe abdominal pain

-abdominal pain that begins around the belly button and localizes to the lower right side

-crying without tears

-if your child is vomiting and urinating much more than usual

-if your child can’t keep any fluids down


As gross as the stomach virus is, the good news is that it usually resolves on it’s own with time and some TLC. If you have any concerns about your child’s health status you should always reach out to your pediatrician for advice and guidance.


Image via Flickr User Funk15