Posted: Feb 25, 2013 8:00 AM
 
When it comes to vomiting and diarrhea in children, nothing is smellier and messier. But, what we worry about most is dehydration. Stick with these hydration tips to avoid going down that dangerous path.

Gastroenteritis (aka the stomach flu) is making its rounds this winter. And with a new, more aggressive strain floating around (think super norovirus) many children infected with this virus go through a painful few days of vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhea.

And though it's a virus, so antibiotics do not help, there is a lot you can do as a parent to help your child stay well and out of the ER. Think hydration, hydration, hydration. Stay one step ahead with these tips:

For babies

1/2 an ounce every 15 minutes to reduce the risk of dehydration.

Breastfeeding, formula, and/or Pedialyte are the best oral rehydrating options. Offer more frequent and small amounts of these fluids. Think 1/2 an ounce every 15 minutes to reduce the risk of dehydration.

Once your baby is tolerating these fluids (without vomiting) for a few hours, you can start increasing the amount she typically drinks. Always check in with your baby's pediatrician, particularly if she is refusing to drink anything and/or has other concerning signs/symptoms such as significant irritability, high fever, or signs of dehydration (sunken soft spot, no tears when crying and decreased amount of wet diapers).

Toddlers

1 ounce every 15-20 minutes until he is tolerating liquids well.

The best way to rehydrate toddlers in the face of vomiting and/or diarrhea is with an electrolyte solution such as Pedialyte, water or diluted juice. Think 1 ounce every 15-20 minutes until he is tolerating liquids well. If he's resistant to drinking anything, try Pedialyte popsicles or ice chips.

Just remember, it's par for the course for them not to want to eat or drink anything. They feel miserable. But insist on the liquids by gently offering these fluids very frequently. Kids can quickly become dehydrated if you're not careful.

Older children

1-2 ounces every 15-20 minutes during the initial vomiting phase.

Water, diluted juice, and an electrolyte solution such as Gatorade work best. Again, offer 1-2 ounces every 15-20 minutes during the initial vomiting phase. You can gradually increase the amount once there is no vomiting for a few hours.

What to eat

Slowly reintroduce solids once your child is tolerating clear liquids well for a few hours. Think bland and small amounts. I still like the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet in these instances because it reminds parents to steer clear of fatty and sugary foods that can exacerbate diarrhea. Add yogurt (with probiotics to boot) to this list and anything else (within reason) that your child will gladly eat.

Time to see a doctor: Signs of dehydration

  • Irritability out of proportion to illness
  • No tears when crying
  • Decreased urine output
  • Extreme fatigue or listlessness
  • Inability to keep any fluids down even after the above measures
  • Sunken soft spot (fontanelle) in babies


Dr. Mom's bottom line
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When it comes to vomiting and diarrhea associated with viral gastroenteritis (aka the stomach flu), staying on top of hydration is paramount. Stay proactive by pushing those fluids early and frequently.

More on your child's health

What to do when your child has a fever
Growing pains are real
RSV and your baby

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