The Stomach Flu and You (Part 2)

The Stomach Flue and You (Part 2)How do I keep them hydrated?

For starters, check out our guide on foods and drinks for sick children. Pick any clear fluid — water, juices (try watering them down), ginger ale that has gone flat (leave it on the counter with the cap off for a little while or shake the bubbles out), broth or electrolyte solutions such as Pedialyte. Steer clear of colas or anything with caffeine, which increases urination and can speed dehydration.

For children under a year, you’ll probably want to use an oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte or Ricelyte, which come in several flavors — and even in popsicle form! If your child won’t go for the electrolyte drink, just continue giving small amounts of formula and breast milk more frequently.

To help kids keep liquids down, small, frequent amounts are better than drinking a whole glass. Try a half-ounce to an ounce every 20 or 30 minutes for kids under two, and the same amount but every 15 to 20 minutes for children older than that.

How do I know if my child is becoming dehydrated?

The first thing any doctor will want to know is how much liquid is moving through the system. For very young kids, MacKoul Pediatrics will want to know how many wet diapers your child is making, so keep count. For older kids who go to the bathroom on their own, try to keep track of how often they go and listen in to gauge output. If not much is coming out, that’s your first sign that your child is becoming dehydrated.

Other signs of serious dehydration include a mouth that is not moist on the inside. When saliva production stops, the mucous membranes of the mouth start to feel tacky. Another giveaway is if your child is crying but not making tears.

If your child is showing any signs of dehydration, get MacKoul Pediatrics on the phone right away.

Should I be feeding my child?

If your child is in the throes of a bad stomach bug, food is going to be the last thing they want. But when the storm breaks and they start to get a little of their appetite back, start slow.

As soon as they are feeling a little bit hungry, you can advance to the BRAT diet — bananas, rice, applesauce, or toast. Plain crackers are fine too. Try one item and give it a little time to see how their system handles it. If it comes right back up or out, it’s too soon to go solid. As soon as they are able to tolerate “bland” foods like the BRAT diet, advance to normal foods. The BRAT diet is great for upset stomachs because it is light, but it is also low in caloric value and may actually prolong the duration of a viral infection — so make sure you are advancing to a regular diet as soon as your little one is able to keep it down! After all, we want to make sure their little body has all the energy it needs to fight off whatever bug is causing the issue.

Are tummy-soothing teas ok? What about probiotics?

This is definitely a gray area. Some herbal teas have pretty potent herbal ingredients that are not meant for kids — some teas for helping congestion even have the strong medication ephedrine in them, so you have to be careful. Don’t assume just because it came from the health food store and has pictures of flowers on the box that it’s safe for your kid. If you’re a big believer in tea, try a weak brew of chamomile, but make sure this isn’t your only form of hydration. Or, if you picked something up that you’d really like to try, check with MacKoul Pediatrics first. This goes for any age child, but especially those under 12. As for other supplements such as vitamin D (often promoted as an “immune system booster”), so far they really haven’t been shown to prevent or treat the stomach flu.

Probiotics have actually been shown to reduce the amount of diarrhea from viral infections and antibiotic associated diarrhea. Lactobacillus GG is the most studied and recommended. It is generally more effective than yogurt that contains live active culture but is expensive; as such, yogurt is recommended if cost is an issue. If your child has had really bad diarrhea and their appetite has returned, you can try yogurt with active cultures to help repopulate the good bacteria that normally live in their gut.

Want to know more? Continue on to Part 3 of The Stomach Flu and You.

About author MacKoul Pediatrics

MacKoul Pediatrics is an amazing local pediatrics office in Cape Coral, FL where caring, compassionate doctors and nurses work with you to keep your children as healthy as possible. MacKoul cares for children from birth to college age, from Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Naples, and beyond.

March 18, 2015