Acute Gastroenteritis Causes – it is an infection caused by a variety of viruses that results in vomiting or diarrhea. It is often called the “stomach flu,” although it is not caused by the influenza viruses. In general, the symptoms begin 1 to 2 days following infection with a virus that causes gastroenteritis and may last for 1 to 10 days, depending on which virus causes the illness.
Transmission – The viruses that cause gastroenteritis are spread through close contact with infected persons. Individuals may also become infected by eating or drinking contaminated foods or beverages.
Treatment – The most important of treating viral gastroenteritis in children and adults is to prevent severe loss of fluids (dehydration). This treatment should begin at home.
Keep Hydrated or Rehydrate – The best fluid to use to treat/prevent dehydration is an oral rehydration solution (ORS) like Pedialyte. ORS is available at pharmacies without a prescription. However, ultimately, the best fluid is going to be the one that your child will take. Alternatives to ORS are soup broth, diluted juices or even diluted milk. Many children will vomit if offered a large quantity of any fluid when they are dehydrated. So the trick is to offer small amounts ( 1 teaspoon or 5ml) frequently (every 3-5 min). Over a hour period of time, this will offer a lot of fluid without overwhelming the stomach. If your child vomits during this period of time, just keep going. If the vomiting persists despite oral rehydration, then your child will need to be seen in an emergency room for intravenous fluid (IV).
Count wet diapers or frequency of urination. The goal is to offer enough fluid so that the child urinates 3-4x in a 24h period. The child does not need to produce a large quantity of urine, so the diapers don’t have to be saturated. Urine just has to exist.
Skin care – the anus and buttocks can become quite irritated if exposed to very acidic stool. Clean the buttocks and anus after bowel movements with water. Alternatively, soak the child in a bathtub of warm water with baking soda ( 1/4 cup) sprinkled in. Apply a thick barrier ointment to the skin such as Desitin Original.
Medications, including antibiotics (which have no effect on viruses) and other treatments, should be avoided unless specifically recommended. There is absolutely no role for Imodium or Pepto-Bismol. Rarely, we will recommend Zofran, a medication used to halt vomiting for a short period of time to allow oral rehydration.
Contagious – Children can return to school when they are fever -free and vomit-free for 24 hours. As well, they need to be having less than 4 stools each day. When should I call you?
If the child has….
not urinated in over 8 hours
vomiting blood, something that looks like coffee grounds, or vomit that is lime green color
difficulty rousing your child to drink