Stomach bugs are contagious and they can be spread pretty much the whole time your child is having diarrhea or vomiting (and even up to 24 hours after it has stopped).
They originally get into circulation from fecal matter but can then be spread through saliva and indirect contact (your sick kid touches a doorknob and then you touch it, for instance). So, it’s hard to keep the family healthy. Regular and vigorous hand washing is a must, especially after diaper changes and potty trips. You should also be washing toys as often as you can, especially if your kids are sharing them. Infected toys are one of the reasons stomach bugs spread like wildfire through daycares, where every child is putting them in their mouth.
When your child doesn’t have a fever and is feeling pretty good. If your child is throwing up and having diarrhea at night, but feels a little better in the morning, it’s a judgment call on whether you want to chance it. If you can, err on the side of caution — better safe than sorry! The last thing a kid wants is the embarrassment of vomiting in school (or worsE), and you don’t want to risk your child being the typhoid Mary of her kindergarten class. In general, you want your child to be pretty much back to normal as far as appetite goes and being able to keep down food.
Good hand hygiene is your best defense. You can’t stop two year-olds from putting everything they see in their mouths, but you can do your best to keep their environment as clean as possible and instill good hand washing practices in them.
Everyone in the family should wash hands before meals and after going to the bathroom. When you’re out in public, keep an eye out for germy spots your kids might like to sample. For instance that unexplainably appetizing handle on the grocery cart that your three year old sucks on the minute you put them in. Pack along sanitizing wipes or look for ones in the grocery store and wipe the handles down before you stick them in the seat. Always have hand sanitizer on hand and use it when there’s no sink nearby (it’s especially handy on public transportation). Unfortunately, though, even doing all of that is not a one hundred percent guarantee you’ll avoid the stomach bug.
As we mentioned before, the “stomach flu” is not actually caused by the influenza viruses, which is what the annual flu shot can protect you from. So, even though you and your children should be vaccinated for the flu, it won’t protect you from the family of bugs that can make you sick to your stomach.
In fact, the only stomach bug vaccine that exists is for the rotavirus, and it is only available to children under 6 months of age. Under one year of age, rotavirus is the most common thing that makes kids so dehydrated they end up in the ER or admitted to a hospital. The vaccination is a series of two or three oral vaccines that are not part of the regular vaccination schedule, so you might want to talk to MacKoul about it, especially if you are having a winter baby or are planning to put your child in daycare before 6 months.
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