Viral Gastroenteritis in Children

What are some of the symptoms of viral gastroenteritis? We tell you what signs of viral gastroenteritis to look out for.

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Causes of Viral Gastroenteritis

Viral gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection caused by several different viruses. The most common way of developing the infection — also referred to as a stomach flu — is through contact with an infected person’s fluids or by consuming contaminated food or water.

Symptoms of Viral Gastroenteritis

Viral gastroenteritis may be referred to as stomach flu, but it is distinctly different from influenza. Influenza usually affects only your respiratory system but gastroenteritis attacks your digestive system in areas such as your intestines.

Some common symptoms include:
Watery diarrhoea
Abdominal cramps
Nausea 
Low-grade fever
Muscle aches
Headaches

Treatments for Viral Gastroenteritis

There is no effective treatment for viral gastroenteritis, but here are some ways to treat its symptoms in children.

For Bottle-fed Infants (Below the Age of One)

Offer oral rehydration solutions (ORS) for eight hours
Offer half-strength formula if he or she vomits once
Offer ORS if he or she vomits two or more times
Give small amounts of half-strength formula or ORS (one teaspoon) every 10 minutes
After four hours without vomiting, increase the amount of ORS or half-strength formula
After eight hours without vomiting, return to formula feeding
For infants over four months old, you may revert to feeding them cereal or strained bananas
You may feed your infant a normal diet in 24 to 48 hours if his or her condition lets up

For Breastfed Infants

Reduce the amount of milk per feeding
Provide breast milk in smaller amounts. Your goal is to avoid filling your baby’s stomach
If your baby vomits twice, nurse on only one side every one to two hours
If your baby vomits more than twice, nurse him or her for just four to five minutes every 30 to 60 minutes
After eight hours without vomiting, you may return to regular breastfeeding

​For Older Children (Over One Year Old)

Offer clear fluids in small amounts for eight hours
Water or ice chips are best for children who are vomiting but have no diarrhoea because water is directly absorbed across the stomach wall
Isotonic solutions and popsicles are recommended. However, stir until the fizz is gone from both food types because the presence of bubbles can inflate the stomach
Give small amounts (one tablespoon) of solutions or popsicles every 10 minutes
After four hours without vomiting, increase the amount
For children with severe vomiting, it is recommended that they rest their stomachs completely for one hour before starting over with smaller amounts of solutions or recommended food types
Add bland foods to your child’s diet after eight hours without vomiting
Stick to bland, starchy foods (or any complex carbohydrates) for 24 hours
Start with saline crackers, white bread, rice and mashed potatoes 
A normal diet is okay in 24 to 48 hours

It is recommended that you discontinue all medications for eight hours. Oral medications can irritate the stomach and exacerbate vomiting. If your child has a fever, you may try paracetamol suppositories.

When Should I Send My Child to the Hospital?

Be sure to send your child to the hospital immediately if he or she experiences the following symptoms:
Any signs of dehydration, such as not urinating for over eight hours and a dry mouth
Any blood or green fluids in his or her vomitus
Abdominal pain that lasts more than four hours
Weakened movements and behaviour
Continued vomiting for more than 24 hours in children under the age of two or for more then 48 hours in children over the age of two​

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Viral Gastroenteritis in Children

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