Health 101: Rotavirus & Stomach Flu

How to Help Your Child Recover from Stomach Flu

Unfortunately, there is no specific treatment for viral stomach flu; it just has to run its course.

But replacing lost fluids and nutrients will help your child feel better more quickly and prevent the bug from getting worse. Here's what to do:

  • Keep up the fluids.

    For breastfed or formula-fed babies: Let your infant's belly rest for 15 to 20 minutes after a bout of vomiting or diarrhea, and then try nursing or bottle feeding again. "Breast milk is actually well tolerated by sick babies; plus the antibodies in it can help strengthen their immune systems," says Dr. Cohen.

    For toddlers and older kids: Ask your doctor about rehydrating drinks, like Pedialyte, which are absorbed better than water. These solutions replenish the crucial salts and sugars lost when your child is throwing up or has diarrhea. It's a good idea to keep some in the medicine cabinet for just-in-case purposes.

    Your child may have a hard time keeping down fluids at first. But sticking to small, frequent doses (try a teaspoon every couple of minutes) may help rebalance fluid and salt levels in the body, which can actually help stop vomiting over time.
  • Get back to a normal diet. Don't worry about food while your child is still throwing up. But once his stomach calms down, start him on bland, easy-to-digest stuff (like toast, rice, bananas, and potatoes). Most experts agree that children should resume eating everyday foods (like whole-grain breads and cereals, meats, fruits, and veggies) once they can keep food down. Also, avoid fatty and sugary foods, which are harder to digest and may make diarrhea worse.
  • Treat the fever. If a higher-than-normal temperature is making your child uncomfortable, you can use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to bring his temperature down. This may help relieve other aches and pains too.
  • Let him rest. Your child will probably be sleeping and napping more than usual, which is normal. But if your baby or toddler has been asleep more than 4 hours (and has been having diarrhea or vomiting), you may want to wake him up to offer fluids. "Remember that infants can become dehydrated more quickly than older kids," says Dr. Steffen. "Use common sense, like watching for signs of dehydration."

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