It’s highly likely that a stomach bug will affect you at some point in your life. Also known as gastroenteritis, they’re common in both adults and children.
Your child can fall victim to a stomach bug at any time of the year, but they’re most prevalent in winter, especially in the first months of the year.
When the weather takes a turn for the worse their immune system is more susceptible to infection.
The severity of stomach bugs can range from slight upset and discomfort, to extreme sickness and dehydration.
But the vast majority of cases can be treated through following simple, inexpensive steps at home.
This post seeks to help you understand these dreaded tummy bugs. And we will be looking at the best ways to treat and prevent them in children.
Symptoms of stomach bugs in children are the same as adults.
These can include:
- Stomach cramps
- General feelings of ill health
Often, the symptoms of a stomach bug will last no longer than a couple of days. However, they can cause much distress – especially in children.
If your child losses a lot of fluid this can lead to severe dehydration. Therefore, symptoms need to be dealt with swiftly and effectively.
The symptoms of gastroenteritis can be caused by a variety of things.
Where do they come from?
Stomach bugs are often caused when our bodies catch a viral or bacterial infection. This causes your stomach to become inflamed and disrupts the absorption of water from your intestines.
This bacteria spreads extremely easily; meaning tummy bugs are often very contagious.
This is also known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’ because of its prevalence in winter!
The virus is found in the faeces or vomit of an individual who has contracted the virus. And the viral particles spread from here.
Therefore, forgetting to wash your hands can cause the disease to spread rapidly. And we all know how difficult it can be to get children to wash their hands!
This is another cause of gastroenteritis, and it’s very similar to Norovirus. You’ll experience similar symptoms of diarrhoea, sickness and dehydration.
However, whilst Norovirus can be contracted at any age, Rotavirus is most common in young children.
It’s also contracted through contact with infected surfaces or people.
Although, not more common in winter, this can still be the reason for a stomach bug. Caution needs to be taken when preparing and cooking your child’s food.
Food poisoning is extremely easy to contract.
Foods that are undercooked, or have been left in inadequate temperatures can become contaminated with bacteria. This bacterium is then consumed leading to a nasty stomach bug.
How can we prevent them?
As easily as they can be contracted, stomach bugs can be prevented with little effort.
Washing your hands
Before they eat, after they use the toilet or when they come into contact with dirty surfaces – encourage your children to wash their hands.
Source: Donny Ray Jones
This will wash away any germs and significantly reduce their chances of catching a stomach bug, particularly Norovirus.
Set a good example by washing your hands with your child. Also, try and explain the importance of washing their hands – yes, we know this is easier said than done!
When cooking, ensure you follow the instructions regarding recommended cooking times. And once again, wash your hands and any surfaces before and after touching raw meats.
Similarly, avoid cross contamination with meats and other foods before they are cooked properly.
General hygiene and a healthy diet can help boost your immune system and combat against stomach bugs.
Ensure you and your child drink the recommended amount of water. Carry around a water bottle so you know how much they've drunk that day.
Try and introduce bacteria-fighting foods such as vitamin-rich citrus fruits and leafy greens.
These foods are packed with antioxidants and will help to boost your immune system. This is especially important in winter when your child’s immune system is weak.
Solutions to treat them?
Whilst prevention is the desired option, this is not always possible. Viral infections can be extremely hard to avoid – particularly when children are involved!
But, there is no need to worry. There are a variety of treatments to combat tummy bug symptoms in children.
One of the most unpleasant symptoms of a stomach bug is dehydration. Excessive vomiting and diarrhoea cause our bodies to lose fluids rapidly. This leads to dizziness and exhaustion.
After vomiting, our first instinct is often to gulp a large glass of water to rehydrate.
However, this often encourages further vomiting due to the irritation your stomach experiences as a result of inflammation.
Instead, small sips of water are recommended every 10-15 minutes.
Source: David D
Diarrhoea can be painful and leave you feeling utterly exausted.
Natural oral medications containing ingredients such as Diosmectite are available in sachet sand should be dissolved in water. They treat acute and chronic diarrhoea and reduce the duration of the problem fast.
They can be used by the whole family from the age of one and be used to help relieve the symptoms of chronic conditions such as IBS or Crohn’s disease.
Products like Dioclear work by removing bacteria and virus from your guts and normalising intestinal functions. Effectively treating diarrhoea and allowing your children to get back to their mischievous little ways fast!
Tablets (Loperamide hydrochloride)
If you prefer, relief is also available in tablet-form. Brands such as Imodium offer various different capsule forms that increase the solidity and decrease the frequency of stools.
They work to relieve the symptoms of diarrhoea within an hour. However, most Imodium products are only suitable if your child is over the age of 12.
The ‘BRAT’ Diet
When you have a stomach bug it’s important you don’t cause further discomfort by eating the wrong foods.
The ‘BRAT’ Diet consists of bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast.
These foods are easy to digest, provide a much needed energy boost for your young one and enable their stomach to recover.
Last, but certainly not least, is rest. Whilst this may be an obvious solution it’s important you and your child take time to fight the symptoms of a stomach bug.
Rest before resuming normal daily activities, and remember to wash your hands thoroughly. They can still pass on Norovirus and Rotavirus - even after their symptoms have disappeared!
At the first sign of symptoms, make sure your child rests. This will ensure they’re back on their feet in no time.
Stomach bugs put our body under a lot of strain. The loss of fluids through diarrhoea and vomiting cause lethargy and dehydration.
Taking some time to rest allows your bodies to relax, recover and fight off persistent symptoms.
The effects of stomach bugs are generally not long-lasting, but they leave us feeling drained and weary.
Following these steps can reduce the chances of your child contracting a bug. It will also help to speed up their recovery process if they do fall ill.
If your child’s symptoms do persist or get worse then it’s important to contact a medical professional immediately.