Gastroenteritis in Children: Treatment and Causes

Gastroenteritis (stomach flu) is common in kids and often spreads rapidly in childcare settings. Due to the risk of dehydration, patients with Gastroenteritis should be monitored closely.

We’ll cover everything you need to know about Gastroenteritis in this quick guide below:

What is Gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis is an infection of the stomach and intestines that is a common cause of vomiting and diarrhea in kids. The infection can be either viral or bacterial.

Gastroenteritis Treatment and Causes in Children

Symptoms of Gastroenteritis in Children

Symptoms of the stomach flu include:

  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Fever

Signs of dehydration to watch for include:

  • Sunken fontanelle (soft spot) in babies
  • Reduced urine output
  • Hard to wake
  • Dark yellow urine
  • Dry mouth
  • Lack of tears
  • Fatigue
  • Fussiness
  • Dizziness

Causes of Gastroenteritis in Children

The cause of Gastroenteritis (or stomach flu) can be either viral or bacterial. One of the most common sources of the stomach flu is Rotavirus. Immunization can help protect against some cases of the stomach flu including those caused by Rotavirus.

The germs that cause Gastroenteritis can spread quickly, especially in schools or childcare settings, so it is important to instill proper hygiene habits in your kids including frequent handwashing, not sharing food or drinks, and covering their mouths when they sneeze.

Treatment of Gastroenteritis in Children

Gastroenteritis can often require medical treatment or even hospitalization to treat the effects of dehydration. A case of the stomach flu can quickly turn serious for a baby or young child suffering from extensive vomiting and diarrhea. It is important to replace fluids that are lost, so if your child is not tolerating any liquids they may have to visit the emergency room for an IV.

Treatment at home may include giving your child ice chips or rehydration drinks such as Pedialyte along with supportive medications to reduce symptoms. Babies should continue drinking their breastmilk or formula as usual.

During the illness, your child may be better able to handle food and water in smaller, more frequent doses. Although they may not have much of an appetite, bland foods such as the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) can help. Other foods that may be tolerated by your child when sick include: cereal, crackers, potatoes, lean meats like chicken, yogurt, and veggies.

It is important to note that juice, soda, sports drinks, and other drinks that contain large amounts of sugar are a poor option for children who are sick with the stomach flu. Sugary drinks can often make diarrhea worse. Fatty foods should also be avoided during this time.

Proper handwashing and hygiene habits can help prevent the stomach flu from spreading to other family members during your child’s illness. Be sure to keep your child home from school until symptoms subside.

Call your child’s doctor in Littleton ASAP if your child shows significant signs of dehydration (such as no urine output in 8-12 hours), isn’t keeping any fluids down, has blood in their stool or vomit, has a high fever, or if symptoms last more than 7 days.

If you think your child might be experiencing symptoms of Gastroenteritis, give us a call today to schedule a visit with one of our friendly board-certified pediatricians.