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Friday, January 5, 2007

Stomach flu (gastroenteritis)


What is stomach flu?
Stomach flu (also called gastroenteritis) is a general term for a whole host of viruses, bacteria, and parasites that can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, chills, and achiness. A virus is most often the culprit, the most common being the Rotavirus. In other cases, the cause is a form of food poisoning bacteria, such as Salmonella, Shigella, Staphylococcus, Campylobacter, or E. coli. Still other cases are caused by parasites such as giardia.

Remember that these are microscopic bugs, so even when hands don't look dirty, they may be covered with nasty germs.) Symptoms usually appear within four to 48 hours of exposure and usually last for a day or two but can continue in severe cases for up to seven days.So, keep clean your child.

How should I treat stomach flu?
First, especially if your child is under 6 months, you'll most likely want to call your pediatrician and tell her what's going on, If your baby is vomiting a lot and has diarrhea, the doctor will probably want to see her and may recommend giving her an over-the-counter oral electrolyte solution, such as Pedialyte (It's like oralit with various taste), in small sips throughout the day in order to keep her hydrated. Your doctor can let you know how much she should be drinking based on her age and weight.

Continue breastfeeding or formula feeding, but stay away from juices, sodas, and Jell-O, which can worsen diarrhea because a baby's damaged gut can't metabolize the high sugar content. Drinks like Gatorade are also not a good idea. But, you may give Pocari Sweet or another's like that. If your baby has a fever, ask your doctor about giving her infant's acetaminophen.

If your child is on solids, and has a more mild case of gastroenteritis, say, with diarrhea but no vomiting, she can continue to eat modest amounts throughout the course of her stomach bug and probably won't require oral electrolyte solution. Breastfeeding or formula feeding should be enough to keep her hydrated. Never give a child anti-diarrhea medication because it'll just prolong her illness and can have potentially serious side effects.

When can my baby go back to eating normally?
If your baby's on solids, once her vomiting and diarrhea lessens or stops and her appetite returns, your doctor will likely recommend that you stop giving her the electrolyte solution as you slowly reintroduce other beverages as well as foods. Follow your child's cues; she'll let you know when she feels hungry. Children with gastroenteritis resume a normal diet (staying away from fatty foods) as soon as possible. That includes such staples as complex carbohydrates (like breads, cereals, and rice), lean meats, yogurt, fruits, and vegetables. Take note that this is different from the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) that doctors used to prescribe. "The BRAT was once very commonly advocated, but we no longer recommend it because it lacks certain vital nutrients, such as protein," says William John Cochran, associate professor of pediatrics at the Geisinger Clinic in Danville, Pennsylvania. Studies show that reintroducing a standard diet soon after acute symptoms ease can actually shorten the bout of a child's gastroenteritis by half a day because it restores essential nutrients to the system that are necessary to fight infection. On the other hand, if your child misses a few days' worth of good nutrition because her bug just kills her appetite, don't worry. As long as she's hydrated, she'll be fine.

How do I know when to call the doctor?
If your child experiences any of the following:
  • a fever higher than 101 degrees
  • vomiting for more than three days
  • excessive fussiness (abdominal pain) that lasts for more than a week
  • blood in her stool
  • a swollen, hard belly
Also call your doctor if she shows any of the classic signs of dehydration:
  • dry diapers (she should have 6 wet ones a day)
  • excessive sleepiness or fussiness
  • wrinkled skin, sunken eyes
  • a sinking soft spot
  • dry lips, crying without tears
  • cool, discolored hands and feet
  • a fever higher than 101 F or 39 C

In such a case, your pediatrician might want to admit her to the hospital (or just keep her there for a few hours) for IV rehydration. If a blood test reveals that she has a parasitic infection, she may be given a course of antibiotics. Don't be alarmed. Odds are, she'll be released and back to her healthy self within a few days' time.

How can I prevent my child from getting a stomach bug?
Since many cases of gastroenteritis are spread via unwashed hands, make sure you wash yours thoroughly with warm water and soap after every bathroom visit and before meals or touching food. The same goes for other family members. It's also a good practice to wash your baby's hands often during the day. What's more, be sure you follow safe food preparation and cooking practices.One more think, keep the hands and dishes clean .

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