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Gastroenteritis In Children


Gastroenteritis, or stomach flu, is an infection of the stomach and intestines.


Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth or eyes. He may urinate less than usual or not at all.
  • You see blood in your child's diarrhea.
  • Your child's legs or arms are cold to the touch. They may be blue.
  • Your child has trouble breathing or a very fast pulse.
  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child is very sleepy, or you cannot wake him.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child will not drink.
  • Your child continues to vomit or have diarrhea, even after treatment.
  • You see worms in your child's diarrhea.
  • Your child is fussier than usual or is not as active.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


  • Antibiotics help fight infection caused by bacteria.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

Manage your child's symptoms:

  • Continue to feed your baby formula or breast milk. Be sure to refrigerate any breast milk or formula that you do not use right away. Formula or milk that is left at room temperature may make your child more sick.
  • Give your child liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to give your child each day and which liquids are best for him. Your child may need to drink more liquids than usual to prevent dehydration. Have him suck on popsicles, ice, or take small sips of liquids often if he has trouble keeping liquids down. Your child may need an oral rehydration solution (ORS). An ORS contains water, salts, and sugar that are needed to replace lost body fluids. Ask what kind of ORS to use, how much to give your child, and where to get it.
  • Feed your child bland foods. Offer your child bland foods, such as bananas, apple sauce, soup, or potatoes. Do not give him dairy products or sugary drinks until he feels better.

Prevent the spread of gastroenteritis:

  • Wash your and your child's hands often. Use soap and water. Remind your child to wash his hands after he uses the bathroom, sneezes, or eats.
  • Clean surfaces and do laundry often. Wash your child's clothes and towels separately from the rest of the laundry. Clean surfaces in your home with antibacterial cleaner or bleach.
  • Clean food thoroughly and cook safely. Wash raw vegetables before you cook. Cook meat, fish, and eggs fully. Do not use the same dishes for raw meat as you do for other foods. Refrigerate any leftover food immediately.
  • Be aware when you camp or travel. Give your child only clean water. Do not let your child drink from rivers or lakes unless you purify or boil the water first. When you travel, give him bottled water and do not add ice. Do not let him eat fruit that has not been peeled. Avoid raw fish or meat that is not fully cooked.
  • Ask about immunizations. You can have your child immunized for rotavirus. This is a shot to protect him from the virus. Ask your healthcare provider for more information.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.