How to prevent stomach flu

Stomach flu, also called gastroenteritis, is a common cause of diarrhea and vomiting in children. Strictly speaking, “gastroenteritis” means “inflammation of the mucous membrane of both stomach and intestine”, but the term is used to refer to bouts of diarrhea, possibly accompanied by vomiting and nausea, caused by either a virus, bacteria or parasite. While children of all ages can get stomach flu, kids in daycare and elementary school are more at risk for catching it because they’re in very close contact with other children and their immune systems are not as developed as in older children and adults.

The best way to prevent stomach flu is to ensure kids regularly and thoroughly wash their hands. Simple soap and water is the best way to clean your hands. Use liquid soap and build a lather while rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds, or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” or “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” twice. Rinse and dry your hands thoroughly.

It’s especially important for everyone to wash their hands after using the bathroom, but also before or after these common activities:

  • after changing a diaper
  • after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose
  • before preparing food
  • after handling garbage
  • before eating

Whenever possible, make sure the foods your kids eat have been properly prepared in a clean environment, and that those who have prepared the food have thoroughly washed their hands. Make sure your refrigerator is working properly and is keeping foods cold enough, and that any food past the “best before” date is thrown away. Never store raw and cooked food in the same container, and make sure any food you cook is cooked all the way through, with no remaining raw bits.

Symptoms of stomach flu in children

  • watery diarrhea
  • pains and cramping in their abdomen
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • muscle or joint aches or a headache
  • slight fever
  • clammy skin, sweating and/or chills
  • weight loss

Be prepared for the stomach flu

Since stomach flu is common and can visit your household at any time, here’s a list of essentials to keep on hand so that you can be prepared.

  1. An easy-to-read thermometer.
  2. Children’s fever reducer.
  3. An oral electrolyte drink (such as Electrolyte Gastro® or Pediatric Electrolyte) to help keep you or your child hydrated and to replenish the electrolytes and minerals lost through mild to moderate diarrhea and/or vomiting.
  4. A designated barf bucket (DBB). Your DBB could be made out of common household items such as a repurposed trash basket or a stainless steel mixing bowl. Having a DBB is essential because it contains the mess, helping to prevent the spread of germs.

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