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Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu) in Children: What Should Parents Do

The recent outbreak of gastroenteritis (stomach flu) among children has caused much concern among parents. But as a parent, what should you do if your child comes down with gastroenteritis (stomach flu)? Dr Tham Lai Peng, Senior Consultant at the Children's Emergency, KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), a member of the SingHealth group, advises. (iStock photo)

Gastroenteritis (commonly known as stomach flu) causes discomfort due to the ensuing vomiting and diarrhoea, which are often accompanied by tummy pains and fever. More significantly – although infrequently – it can have a detrimental effect on young children and babies.

Dr Tham shared that most children do not need medicine or antibiotics to treat gastroenteritis (stomach flu), although doctors may prescribe medication to relieve symptoms of vomiting or severe tummy pains.

Related article: How to know if a gastric pain gets serious

While the bug runs its course, it is important to replenish lost fluids and prevent dehydration. "There is no need to change the diet intentionally, but do give more fluids", she added.

If your child has diarrhoea, but is not vomiting

  • For children, there is no need for dietary restrictions, but increase the intake of rice water, barley water or rehydration solution. Fruit juice should be diluted four times

  • If a child cannot hold down any fluid at all, seek emergency care

  • For breastfed babies, continue breastfeeding and feed more often

  • For formula-fed babies, continue with the usual formula. If the diarrhoea lasts for more than 10 days, an option to change to a soy- or lactose-free formula may be considered

  • Do not feed your baby with only water

  • For every bout of loose stools, add 60 to 100ml of fluids, such as rice water, barley water or rehydration solution, to replenish lost electrolytes and sodium

Related article: Vomiting in children – When to see a doctor

If your child is under three years old and vomiting, but not dehydrated

  • Give 15ml of fluid (rice water, barley water, rehydration solution, milk or diluted juice) every 15 minutes for the first three to four hours. Double the fluid volume and increase the feeding interval if your child does not vomit (i.e. 30ml/30min for one hour, then 60ml/ hour for two to three hours)

  • For breastfed babies, feed more frequently but in smaller amounts

  • Seek medical advice if vomiting persists

After eight hours without vomiting

  • For children, offer a soft diet of porridge, bread, biscuits, soup or mashed potatoes

  • Usually, your child should be able to be back on solids within 24 hours after recovery from vomiting

  • For breastfed babies, return to normal nursing

  • Start milk feeds for babies and give about one to two ounces less per feed

Related article: Prevention tips for the common stomach flu

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