When it comes to your child’s health, swift recovery from any ailment is your top priority, particularly when dealing with stomach issues. However, it’s essential to avoid certain pitfalls that could inadvertently exacerbate the situation. Experts warn about the mistakes parents make that make tummy trouble worse. Giving your kid the wrong remedy for their stomach ailment could set them back for days, and that’s a risk you don’t want to take.
I thought I knew what to do when a terrible stomach sickness swept through my family of five because I am a mother of three. My firstborn child was sick, and I felt embarrassed when the pediatrician inquired, “You gave him how much water?” Because I was worried about Jacob, age 8, becoming dehydrated, I let him drink a full cup after every time he threw up. This, of course, only made him sicker.
Mistakes like this frequently occur while medicating a stomach ailment, which is typically brought on by a virus and seldom by bacteria. “It’s scary when your child is throwing up,” says pediatrician and author of Baby and Toddler Basics Tanya Remer Altmann, M.D., FAAP. And you would give anything if it would just stop.
A stomach bug needs to be monitored closely due to its potential severity. The norovirus, for instance, sends roughly 24,000 children under the age of 18 to the emergency room annually. However, there is a good chance that your child’s upset stomach will be fine in a week or so. Making patients as comfortable as possible, giving the sickness time to take its course, and avoiding the following mistakes is all that’s required.
1. If a child is throwing up, do not give them water.
If your kid has just thrown up, he or she will probably want to drink right away. However, having them down a drink of alcohol so soon after is not recommended. Wait 15 to 30 minutes after vomiting to give them anything to drink because their stomach is likely inflamed. Las Vegas pediatrician Vipul Singla, M.D., warns, “Otherwise, it may come right back up.” A spoonful of water or an electrolyte drink (like Pedialyte, which contains salt to rehydrate the intestines) should be consumed every 15 minutes initially.
After an hour of not vomiting and drinking normally, you can increase the interval to every 10 minutes. Try ice pops, Jell-O, or applesauce after two to three hours; the sugary flavor may entice them.
Even if a child’s vomiting stops, that doesn’t mean they’re better. Typical symptoms of a stomach virus include diarrhea, a low-grade fever, headaches, chills, and body pains, and can last for up to a week. If your child’s symptoms don’t improve after two days, you should contact their doctor.
2. Do not take over-the-counter diarrhea medication.
If your child has an upset stomach, you might be tempted to give them an over-the-counter (OTC) medication without consulting a doctor. Jennifer Shu, M.D., FAAP, a pediatrician at one of Children’s Medical Group’s three Georgia facilities, adds, “Sometimes parents use whatever they have in their medicine cabinet.” However, “these medications can worsen the child’s condition and have unwanted side effects.” Salicylate, an aspirin-like chemical included in antidiarrheal medications like the original Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate, has been linked to the rare but potentially lethal condition known as Reye’s syndrome in children and young adults. FDA-approved for children 6 and up, loperamide (the active ingredient in Imodium, Kaopectate I-D, and others) is not recommended by Dr. Shu since it slows down digestion and prolongs the duration of the bug’s stay in your child’s stomach.
Pepto-Bismol Children Chewable Tablets do not contain salicylate, but you should still consult with your doctor before administering them to your child. Keeping your child hydrated and giving them time to recover is often the best course of action.
3. Avoid rushing to bring down a fever.
Weigh the benefits and drawbacks. If your child’s temperature is high, it means his or her body is trying to fight off an infection. However, if your child’s temperature is over 101 degrees Fahrenheit and they are not feeling well, bringing their temperature down may encourage them to consume fluids. Stay with acetaminophen instead than ibuprofen because the latter can aggravate stomach irritation.
If your child is experiencing nausea and vomiting, Dr. Altmann recommends giving them half the normal dose of acetaminophen and then the other half an hour later (if they are able to keep it down). Your youngster may also benefit from acetaminophen tablets, which dissolve quickly in the mouth. An acetaminophen suppository is an alternative if your child has trouble keeping the medicine down. However, it may not be a fan favorite.
4. Keep an eye on how much milk and juice they are taking in.
Fruit juice and other sugary drinks should be avoided because they can make your child’s stomach feel worse. Try giving them an electrolyte drink like Gatorade if they insist on drinking something other than water.
Milk may be OK, but you should give them only a bit at first in case it worsens their diarrhea. Dr. Singla says that a stomach infection can temporarily cause lactose intolerance and the accompanying abdominal pain, bloating, and cramps. If your child is experiencing this, you should give them lactose-free milk until their bowel movements are normalized. In addition, you can help restore the beneficial bacteria in their intestines by giving them probiotics or yogurt with live and active cultures. Nursing is also safe since the antibodies and nutrients in breast milk aid in stomach healing.
5. Avoid the BRAT diet now that your child is feeling better.
Once your child is feeling better enough to eat, there is no need to continue the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet. When children appear to be feeling better, doctors advise them to return to their normal eating habits. According to Dr. Shu, the BRAT diet shouldn’t be followed for more than a day. While these foods aid in digestion, they don’t provide the protein or other nutrients necessary for a full recovery. Even after your child’s symptoms have subsided, you should keep them from eating fatty foods (such as chicken nuggets, fries, and pizza) and encourage them to drink plenty of fluids.
6. Keep a close eye on sanitation efforts.
If your child’s condition improves, don’t let up on your vigilance regarding excellent cleanliness. Even after your child’s symptoms have subsided, the virus may still be present in his or her intestines and be passed in his or her feces. Instruct them to engage in thorough hand washing for at least 20 seconds after using the restroom. Sing “Happy Birthday to You” twice as they wash their hands to ensure they’re clean.
Always use soap and water to clean your hands after changing a diaper. Don’t give your kid anything you’d want them to have. For example, doorknobs and children’s toys can harbor germs for several hours or even days, so it’s important to clean or disinfect them frequently.
When to Seek Medical Attention
While it is likely that your child’s stomach will improve on its own, you should still consult your pediatrician if you observe any of the following symptoms.
- Your infant is sick to his stomach.
- Even small amounts of liquid are difficult for your youngster to swallow.
- There is evidence that they are dehydrated. This includes not peeing or having very dark urine, having dry lips or mouth, and not crying because they have no tears. A baby’s fontanel, the soft region at the top of the head, may also look depressed.
- A major intestinal blockage may be indicated if you see dark brown particles in their vomit (blood) or a reddish, jelly-like substance in their feces.
- Diarrhea occurs more frequently than once per hour for your youngster.
- A fever of 103 degrees or higher has been detected in either your baby or older child (6 months or more).
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