I'm a mom of three, so when an awful stomach bug tore through my family, I thought I knew exactly what to do. But when my oldest son couldn't stop vomiting, I was mortified when our pediatrician asked, "You gave him how much water?" It turns out I'd made a classic error: Fearing that Jacob, 8, would get dehydrated, I'd let him gulp down a full cup each time he vomited, which caused him to get sick even more.
Such goofs are common when treating a gastrointestinal illness, which is usually caused by a virus and, less often, by a bacterial infection. "It's scary when your child is throwing up," says Tanya Remer Altmann, M.D., a pediatrician and author of Mommy Calls. "You're living this Exorcist moment, and you'll do anything to make it stop."
You do need to keep a close eye on your child because a stomach bug can be serious. The norovirus causes an estimated 18,500 children under age 5 to be hospitalized each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And despite the recent vaccine that's led to an 80 percent decline in cases of rotavirus, the GI infection still sends another 15,000 kids to the hospital. Chances are, however, your child's troubled tummy will be fine within a few days to a week. All you need to do is make him feel as comfortable as possible, let the illness run its course, and steer clear of the following flubs.