Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu): Everything You Need To Know About Stomach Bugs


(Stomach Flu)


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Mostly referred to as the Stomach Flu, it is in all actuality not a flu at all. It is also not limited to your stomach, it affects the intestines as well.


The proper term for this is Gastroenteritis. Which is an intestinal infection marked by diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and fever.

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation (swelling and irritation) of the inner lining of your gastrointestinal tract. Typically this virus will last 24-48 hours. Though, in some cases has been known to last up to 5 days with general weakness extending upwards to 10 days.





Gastroenteritis is caused by a virus, while there are many different viruses that can cause this, here is a look at the most notable and common three.


  • Rotavirus: Most commonly infects infants age 3 to 15 months. Usually lasting three to seven days and most common in the cooler months. (there is a vaccine available for this virus and is given prior to 6 months of age).


  • Norovirus: More common in adults. Usually lasts 24-72 hours and can occur at any time of the year.


  • Adenovirus: Mainly affects children under the age of 2 and can occur at any time of the year. Symptoms usually last 5 to 12 days.




Symptoms are easily distinguishable. If your child has a sudden bout of diarrhea and vomiting accompanied by stomach cramps, and a fever the likely culprit is Gastroenteritis.

There is no real treatment for this infection, symptoms will fade in time. If symptoms persist longer than usual, your doctor may ask for a stool sample to look for viruses, bacteria, or parasites. Otherwise, no diagnostic tests are required for Gastroenteritis.


Why is my vomit yellow or green?


Most people get concerned when they see the colors yellow and green when they are positive they didn’t eat anything of this color. That my friends is the color of Bile. Bile is a fluid like substance made by the liver and stored in the gallbladder which is passed to the small intestine to help you digest food and absorb fats from food.


Normally, Bile will not make its way to the stomach due to a sphincter (a ring-shaped muscle that creates a seal between the stomach and intestine)that prevents food from coming back up. However, it has been known to release into the stomach when vomiting on an empty stomach and this in turn, changes the color of your vomit to a yellow or green color.


Encourage Frequent and Thorough Handwashing

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Teach children to wash hands to the ABC song twice for proper time

At Home Care:


The biggest concern with Gastroenteritis is dehydration.


They need to drink, and most often, just water won’t cut it. Most of the time, it is too difficult to eat during the bug, and fluids are the only option. In this case, you need to be replacing the lost electrolytes. Aim for a Pedialyte or a comparable beverage.

Don’t stress over non-eating, they will be fine as long as they stay hydrated. When it comes time to start attempting food again, introduce it slowly. Start with small bites, and very small servings. Nothing too heavy or flavorful.

Keep a bucket/bin close by so they don’t have to make mad dashes to the bathroom or spew everywhere trying. Character buckets and bins are a great way to get a hint of a smile out of them during this.



Introduce Food Slowly


The B.R.A.T. diet works well here, as long as you are ensuring they replace electrolytes through beverages. The problem with the B.R.A.T. diet is that it lacks in the nutritional value. Though, I would recommend to skip the applesauce until they no longer have watery diarhea.


Start with foods like;

  • Toast/Bread
  • Potatoes
  • Plain Yogurt (go easy with this one, dairy is harder on their tummies)
  • Crackers (Saltines are great for this)
  • Rice
  • Bananas


When they begin to tolerate the foods listed above you can move on to trying lean meats and cooked vegetables. The trick is to proceed slowly.


Settle their stomach with this trick…


My children’s Pediatrician swears by this method. Get pears in a cup, the kind in heavy syrup and offer a teaspoon of the syrup every 30 minutes to an hour. The high sugar content will help settle their tummies. Now, this goes against what I am about to tell you regarding sugar…But, it works.


Pick your battles, right?


Bonus Tip: When they won’t take fluids a good rule of thumb to follow is giving a teaspoon of fluid every 4-5 minutes, this will help ease into it.




Foods and beverages with sugar and caffeine, this also includes milk. These will increase the risk of dehydration as they rob your body of fluids. Sugar also hinders your bodies ability to make Vitamin C which in turn weakens your immune system.


Hydration & Dehydration:


The most common concern during a bout of Gastroenteritis is dehydration.


Kids stop eating, and everything they manage to drink seems to come up moments later. Not to mention, the electrolyte solutions (i.e. Pedialyte) and Replacement drinks (i.e. Pediasure) available taste so awful they won’t even attempt drinking it.

When all else fails, and your child will not eat or can’t seem to keep anything down, don’t force it. Instead, push fluids. As long as they are drinking plenty of fluids, at minimum 16-24 ounces a day, they will be okay not eating for the time being. Although under normal circumstances MD’s will not advise sport drinks for children, if they will not take kid friendly electrolyte replacement drinks, I’d suggest giving the G2 Gatorades unless otherwise directed by your pediatrician.



Symptoms of Dehydration you can check for at home:


Urine: Are they passing urine? An early sign of dehydration is dark (concentrated) urine, and a later sign would be decreased urine output.

Capillary Refill: This is when you press down on the top of your finger nail and it turns white then returns to pink. This should be a very quick transition from white to pink, if it seems slow, the child may be dehydrated.

Pinch Test (skin turgor): Pinch a good chunk of skin on the back of your child’s hand, if the skin is slow to bounce back, they are dehydrated.

Dryness: Are their lips dry? Dry mouth? Reduced tears?

Sunken Fontanelle: For babies, the Fontanelle or “soft spot” on the top of their heads will be sunken in if they are dehydrated. Check for this.

If you suspect dehydration, you should seek medical attention for your child immediately. For severe cases of dehydration IV Fluid replacement may be necessary.


Contagious Period & Relapses


The viruses that cause Gastroenteritis (stomach bug) can survive and live on surfaces in your home for up to 2 weeks. It is very important to sanitize the moment the bug has passed.


  • Use Bleach to scrub surfaces
  • Use Lysol Spray on furniture, drapes, and general spraying throughout your home
  • Wash all sheets, blankets, towels, and clothes thoroughly on the heavy soil setting. (some may require two cycles)
  • Don’t forget about toys, stuffed animals, dolls, and electronic devices. They are likely harboring the virus as well.


It is important to note that they can “catch it again”. This happens one of two ways;


  • They have a relapse of the same virus within days of recovering due to not getting it all out.
  • When the stomach bug is running rampid their are often multiple different strains making their way about at the same time. They can catch a strain they did not have even though they just had the bug.


When to call the Doctor


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12 thoughts on “Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu): Everything You Need To Know About Stomach Bugs

  1. Thanks for sharing this info! I literally knew nothing about the stomach flu, but that it’s been going around! Pinned this earlier, so I’m glad I’ll have it just in case!

  2. Yes, such great info… my son had the stomach bug this summer and the only thing he could keep down was breastmilk… I don’t know what I’m going to do once he stops nursing altogether but this will be a good list to reference! Thanks!

  3. Perfect timing! My first grader got sent home with the stomach bug yesterday… He was one of six kids out with it in his class alone today, PLUS their teacher! Ugh. Gotta keep the cooties at bay over here!

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