Stomach bug

The stomach bug– so catchy you might just get it from reading this article.

The dreaded words… the stomach bug.🤢 Let’s talk about how we can avoid catching it and what it is.

The stomach bug is usually caused by a virus 🤒that causes vomiting and/or diarrhea 💩🤮. Viral gastroenteritis, stomach flu, stomach bug, puking, the runs all usually mean one thing. They don’t call it runs for just the obvious reasons… You will be running to the bathroom as well as having runny poo. How did you catch this, and is it really the stomach bug? 

Stomach bug transmission and symptoms

The stomach virus is spread by touching infected vomit, stool and saliva. 🤮 Good handwashing is a must.🚰 Don’t get caught eating a poop particle (yuck) 💩. Keep your hands away from your mouth! Try telling that to your thumb sucker or orally fixated school aged kiddo. 

Your symptoms usually occur about 24-48 hours after exposure to the virus. Besides suffering from vomiting and diarrhea, you will likely feel sick, have abdominal cramping, low grade fever, nausea and overall feel achy. 🤒 The stomach bug is hard to contain. If someone in your house has it, either clean the toilet each time they use it, or if you are lucky enough to have two bathrooms, only let them use one!

What causes the stomach bug

The most common viruses to cause the stomach bug 💩🤮 are the norovirus, rotavirus, and the adenovirus. Both the noro and rota viruses are SUPER contagious and can blow through schools, offices, and homes over a few days. Handwashing and good hygiene are KEY to preventing the spread. The most common time to get these viruses is October through April— Poop virus from Pumpkins to Petunias is a good way to remember it. But let’s face it, that’s more than half the year, so let’s just say it’s always around! Wash those hands! 🤒

What should I expect; how to rehydrate an adult who has the stomach bug

The stomach bug will usually only last 3-4 days, but it can last as long as 10 days! It’s important to give your gut a rest when the symptoms first start. If you are vomiting, give your belly a rest until the vomiting calms down by avoiding all food. Take small sips of Pedialyte or watered down Gatorade or broth. Small sips means small sips! If you chug the drink (which you may want to do, SO THIRSTY) you will likely vomit! Don’t do that! You are better off sipping and letting your body absorb small bits of fluid at a time than chugging a large amount and immediately vomiting it up, while absorbing nothing. 

Hydration is key with the stomach bug.🥛 You will feel awful, and that feeling will worsen if you become dehydrated. So take it easy, slow and steady wins the race. Once vomiting has stopped and you can tolerate drinking well, you can start eating small amounts of plain, bland, foods that are easy to digest. Don’t go eating a Big Mac or chicken wings. Stick to plain, non greasy, low fat foods. 

High protein foods like eggs 🥚, boiled chicken are okay🐔, as well as plain rice, broth and crackers. Avoid dairy for at least a week, especially in children. Milk and cheese🧀 are hard to digest and can prolong diarrhea symptoms. Switch to a non-dairy alternative such as coconut, nut or soy milk to hold them over as some kids love their milk! Plain yogurt with live cultures is also a great alternative as it provides some good bacteria for your gut. 

How to rehydrate your baby or young child who has the stomach bug

If your baby is less than 6 months old and has vomiting or vomiting or diarrhea 💩🤮, you should call your primary care provider. They may want you to come into the office for a visit. Babies over 6 months of age with stomach bug symptoms usually can be managed well at home with some effort. But not all! Make sure to call with any signs of dehydration or if your child is ill appearing.

First off, babies should have a wet diaper a minimum of every 6-8 hours. It’s important that their body is making urine (pee) regularly. If that’s not happening, that it a sign they are getting dehydrated and should be evaluated by your primary provider, an urgent care, or the ER depending on time of day. When in doubt, check with us or call your pediatrician. Don’t hesitate if things seem off, ask for some help and guidance, as young infants can get dehydrated much faster than older children. Remember, if they are not peeing, they should get checked! 

If your baby is actively vomiting, let their belly rest for an hour or two until the fast and furious vomiting improves. Once things calm down, offer your baby small amounts of Pedialyte at a time. Small sips are important. Keep track of what they are taking (put a sheet of paper on the fridge and track it all). If they chug the bottle, they are likely to vomit it all up. 🍼 Small sips means that they are absorbing small amounts frequently. Offer ½ oz-1 oz every 15 min and increase as they are able to keep it down. Some babies may even need you to syringe 5-10mL of fluid or give teaspoons every 2-3 minutes as they may refuse the bottle/breast.

Gelatin, tea, fruit juice, rice water, and other beverages are not recommended to rehydrate your child. Stick to premade oral rehydration such as Pedialyte, Infalyte, and ReVita or other generic Pedialyte version are great. Oral rehydration popsicles are a fan favorite and they are found non frozen next to the regular pedialyte bottles. 

Don’t give your baby formula or cow’s milk for 24 hours or until they are able to tolerate full feeds of Pedialyte. For babies on formula, you can reintroduce them slowing back to regular bottles by giving 50/50 Pedialyte/formula and then once tolerating that, back to 100% formula. 

Can I give breastmilk to an infant with stomach bug?

You CAN breastfeed your baby who has the stomach bug. Breastmilk is very well absorbed– your baby can easily digest your breastmilk. The same rule goes for chugging! Small sips, so either pull the baby off the breast or pump and offer small amounts at a time. 🤱Pedialyte frozen pops or breastmilk pops are also great ways to rehydrate without chugging.

Infants (0-6 months) can become dehydrated VERY quickly. If your baby isn’t taking any bottles, or is refusing to breastfeed, you should have a discussion with us or your provider about the plan for them as they will become dehydrated quickly. 

The stomach bug 💩🤮 can last up to 10 days in kiddos as well as adults. Once your child stops vomiting, diarrhea usually follows. Avoid letting your baby drink cow’s milk and dairy based formula until the diarrhea slows down to once a day or completely resolves. Lots of cows milk, cheese, greasy hard-to-digest foods can prolong diarrhea in kids and young babies. Who wants to deal with that!?

High protein foods like eggs, boiled chicken are ok, as well as plain rice, broth and crackers. Avoid dairy for at least a week, especially in children. Milk and cheese are hard to digest and can prolong diarrhea symptoms. Switch to a non-dairy alternative such as coconut, nut or soy milk to hold them over as some kids love their milk! Plain yogurt with live cultures is also a great alternative as it provides some good bacteria for your gut. 

If for any reason your child isn’t urinating for more than 8 hours, doesn’t make tears when they cry, has a very dry mouth, has sunken eyes, feels cool/clammy, seems listless/out of it/confused, or is complaining of a bad headache they should be evaluated by a provider right away. Remember, you know your child best, so if something seems up, don’t hesitate to get some help and have someone lay eyes on your kiddo! 

Food poisoning 

Food poisoning is similar to the stomach bug 💩🤮, but is caused by eating bad food that has a virus or parasite in it. Vomiting and diarrhea start fast and furious, about 2-6 hours after eating the bad food. Food poisoning usually doesn’t last as long as the “stomach bug.” Along with the vomiting and/or diarrhea, if you have food poisoning you will likely experience chills, sweating and lots of abdominal cramping. 

To help prevent food poisoning, avoid eating raw or undercooked meat, eggs, sprouts and other foods, and unpasteurized cheese and drinks. Also make sure to cook your food thoroughly. You can also help prevent food poisoning by washing your raw veggies and fruits well before eating. 

When to worry about dehydration in kids with stomach bug

The stomach bug usually resolves without complications. However, this is not always the case. If your child hasn’t urinated or had a wet diaper in 6-8 hours, they may be dehydrated. A sign of dehydration can be no tears when crying and a dry mouth. Kiddos are much smaller than adults and can become dehydrated MUCH faster than adults. Your child may appear to be like a wet noodle and can’t stand or lift their head. If you can’t get your kid to use their iPad and if your teen isn’t texting… well that is a clear sign you have a sick kid. If this is the case, you should have them seen right away in urgent care or the Emergency room as they may need intravenous (IV) hydration. 

Another reason to bring that kiddo to the office is if there is frequent diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days, poop with blood in it, or significant pain that is worsening or not resolving. Pain or vomiting and/or diarrhea with high fever >101.5 should also be seen right away. If you child can’t walk due to pain, or you have that uneasy feeling, always go with your gut and get them checked out.

When to be concerned about the stomach bug

Parents are always tired, but when should you worry about yourself or other adults? The stomach bug usually resolves without complications, especially in adults. However, this is not always the case. Often times you will have no energy and can’t get out of bed or may feel dizzy when standing. You may have the following symptoms: very dry mouth, no urination in 8 hours, feel like you have a fast heartbeat, have dark urine and the feeling of extreme thirst that doesn’t seem to improve with drinking. If this is the case, you should be seen right away in urgent care or the Emergency room as you may need intravenous (IV) hydration. Another reason to visit your provider is if you have fainting, there is frequent diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days, poop with blood in it, or significant pain that is worsening or not resolving. Pain or vomiting and/or diarrhea with high fever >101.5 should also be seen right away. 

We can chat with you to help you to determine if you are having severe symptoms of dehydration or this is something you can tackle at home. 

What will urgent care or the Emergency Room do for the stomach bug?

The nearby urgent care or the emergency room will do everything possible to get you or your child to drink orally before considering IV hydration (often times by starting with a dose of an orally absorbed anti-nausea medicine called ondansetron/zofran), so try your best to drink or get that kiddo to drink at home. Popsicles and a favorite drink offered frequently are helpful in getting stubborn kiddos to hydrate. Play a game with a drink or have a tea party with some Pedialyte or Gatorade to encourage your child to drink. Even offering small amounts with an oral syringe can help. Once you or your child start to absorb some fluids, you should feel significantly better. 

If you can’t seem to tolerate drinking and you are still vomiting and having diarrhea 💩🤮 and have signs of dehydration, and urgent care or the Emergency Room can help you to recover. They can place an IV in your arm and give you or your child proper fluids and electrolytes to help you recover from your illness. Dehydration can be very serious and can require medical treatment to reverse. In some cases medication is given to help with symptoms of nausea. Sometimes certain medication is needed to treat your diarrhea. The ER can do testing if necessary.🏥 

Chat with us if you aren’t sure on what to do! 

Prevent the spread of vomiting and diarrhea

Regardless of how you got your illness, it’s important to prevent transmission of the virus. Good handwashing is key to prevent the spread of illness. Always wash your hands before and after eating, when handling food and when using the bathroom. 🚰🤚🖐 Clean surfaces where raw meat is placed and never reuse an unwashed plate for raw food to serve cooked food. Always wipe surfaces down with Clorox or bleach products. 

According to the CDC, you can shed billions of virus particles in your vomit and poop 💩🤮. It only takes a few of these particles to make someone sick. Keep away from others while you are actively sick and for 2 days after. Don’t cook dinner or go to your job as a chef until your have been well for a few days. Keep your child home from school and daycare for an extra 2 days after they are vomiting and diarrhea free! And again, WASH YOUR HANDS! 🚰🤚🖐

– Kim Liner, RN, MSN, CPNP

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