Stomach Flu in Babies: The Common Disease

Jun 04, 2019

Based on the WHO report, "Out of 2.3 million annual deaths among children, about 334,000 are due to gastroenteritis diseases." In other words, gastroenteritis or stomach flu in babies is the leading cause of mortality in India. Let's find out more about this disease.

What Is Stomach Flu (Gastroenteritis)?

Stomach flu, also known as gastroenteritis is a condition that affects the digestive system of a child. It is the second most common infection kids get, after the respiratory disease like colds. Stomach flu is highly infectious and spreads through contact with someone or something that is infected with the virus. Infants and young children are mainly prone to this infection because their immune systems are still forming. Stomach flu can be prevented with the use of rotavirus vaccine.

What Causes Stomach Flu?

Stomach flu in babies is most commonly caused due to a viral or bacterial infection. The viruses that are responsible for gastroenteritis, include norovirus, rotavirus, parvovirus, astrovirus, and adenovirus. Babies are most likely to get viral flu when they drink or eat contaminated water or food. Besides, it can also affect them if they share towels, utensils, or food with someone who's infected. These infections can further root for diarrhea and other symptoms by causing irritation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tissue. Moreover, these contagious agents may physically harm intestinal cells indirectly or directly with secreted toxins.

Signs and Symptoms of Stomach Flu

Stomach flu attacks babies intestines. The warning signs of stomach flu in babies may not show early, therefore, be on the lookout for these red flags causing gastroenteritis:
  • lethargy
  • dehydration
  • occasional muscle aches or a headache
  • weight loss
  • abdominal cramps and pain
  • swollen abdomen
  • dry skin and dry mouth
  • low, increased or no urine
  • poor diet
  • nausea, vomiting or both
  • low-grade fever

Treatment Tips for Parents

What is generally known as stomach flu can cause distress in babies due to ensuing diarrhea and vomiting. It is often accompanied by stomach aches and fever. Therefore, while the infection runs its course, it is vital to prevent dehydration and replenish the lost fluids. Here are some of the things parents must do. Read along.
  • Do not feed the baby with only water.
  • For every loose motion, add fluids to their diets, such as barley water, rice water, or rehydration solution. This will help in replenishing the lost electrolytes and sodium.
  • Make sure to feed them diluted fruit juice as it is also a good source of rehydration.
  • Use gripe water for relief, if stomach cramps persist.
  • Give 15ml of fluid, every 15 minutes for the first three to four hours. Increase the feeding interval if the baby does not vomit.
  • If the baby cannot hold down any fluid at all, seek emergency care.
  • Seek medical advice if vomiting persists. Also, if the baby is not urinating, crying without tears, cranky and has a fever over 102 F, call the doctor.

How to Prevent Stomach Flu in Babies?

  • Get the baby vaccinated against rotavirus to prevent stomach flu.
  • Wash hands after using the bathroom, before feeding and after changing diapers.
  • Make sure that the baby plays on a clean floor and their toys are clean too.
  • Wash babies hands and try to keep them away from slippers, shoes, and pets dishes.
  • Use boiled or filtered drinking water. If preparing supplement food for the baby, use boiled water.
  • Try to keep babies hygienic and hydrated to avoid such infections.
As terrible as it is for the adults to get the stomach flu, it is even harder for a child to go through it. If the baby's symptoms haven't dropped down in a day or two, consult the doctor.

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