Depending on the virus and your child's immune system, the stomach flu can last anywhere from just a day or two to around 10 days. "Children tend to throw up for just the first day or two, but diarrhea can last more than a week," says Dr. Nelson.
Stomach flu can also make your child prone to short-term and completely reversible lactose intolerance (the inability to digest an enzyme in milk and dairy products), which may be responsible for lingering diarrhea in toddlers and older kids. "If milk seems to make diarrhea worse, ask your pediatrician what to feed your child," says Dr. Nelson. You may want to try yogurt instead, which is easier to digest, and return to milk a day or two after.
If your child is still throwing up after two days or has diarrhea for more than four days, check in with the doctor again. She may want to do additional tests to see if a different type of infection or condition might be to blame.
Sources: Stanley Cohen, MD, pediatric gastroenterologist at the Children's Center for Digestive Health Care in Atlanta, Georgia. David B. Nelson, MD, chair and professor of pediatrics at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. Rita Steffen, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. AAP section on Management of Acute Gastroenteritis in Young Children. Mayo Clinic sections on Viral Gastroenteritis, Dehydration, Lactose Intolerance and Salicylates. FDA section on RotaTeq. CDC sections on Viral Gastroenteritis and Rotavirus Vaccination.
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