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Stomach Flu

February 28, 2011

I’d like to take some time to discuss what we call gastroenteritis; also known as stomach flu or intestinal virus.  In my area of Maryland we are starting to see a large group of kids developing fever, diarrhea and or vomiting.  In this area of the country, March is a typical time for such occurrences.

Symptoms usually start with a fever and tiredness. The next day, a lack of appetite develops and then that first explosive episode of vomiting occurs followed by crying (we parents are awakened at this point that our child is really sick). There may be diarrhea at this point or not. In any event, the bottom line is that we have sick child on our hands and it is quite messy. What should we do as parents at this point? 

After cleaning up the mess, hug you’re your child and give reassuring gestures.  DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RE FEED THE CHILD.  At this point your child is probably frightened and needs your security.  Fever is probably present so it is OK to give a dose of Tylenol or is generic form of acetaminophen.  Putting the child in the bath tub with luke warm water is also a way to get the fever down.   After this, it is probably best to call your doctor since there are many parameters we use to decide what is the next step.  This may include continued home care or urgent care or emergency visits.  Later on (hours or days depending on the age and severity of illness) we advise introducing clear liquids.  These are any fluids that we can see through like apple juice, ginger ale, grape juice, Gatorade or Pedialyte.  After 24 hours we try to start a bland diet.  A bland diet is fruits and carbohydrates (applesauce, grapes, banana, rice cakes, toast, crackers, dry cereals) without the use of milk or dairy and without using any meats, poultry, eggs, fried foods or vegetables.  If things are going OK, then the next day vegetables and meats can be added. The last things to be added are the fried foods (including chips) or dairy products.

This plan may vary depending on the age of the child and the severity of illness.  Many times this can be managed with your doctor over the telephone on a day by day basis.  Sometimes your doctor may use medications to help especially when the illness is severe.  In any event most cases clear up in 4-5 days without problems.  Don’t worry much about the temporary weight loss;  the child will quickly gain it back when well.

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