Stomach flu: What to do
All the families whose tweets I've been reading this past week have seemed to come down with the stomach flu that struck my entire extended family this week (Monroe rung in the new year by throwing up all over me at 1:30 a.m. January 1, and then it just spread). It's extremely contagious, if my family is any indication, but seems to affect the smallest people first.
I've consulted the family pediatrician and the internets, and here's what I've learned:
- the stomach flu (which could be any of a number of different viruses) has an incubation period from four to 48 hours
- the disease can be picked up by hand-to-mouth contact with vomit or poop, through kissing a sick baby or sharing a cup or sucking on the same toy
- washing hands thoroughly, for at least 15 seconds of vigorous rubbing-together, is the best way to prevent transmission (though if you're caring for a child with the disease, it's hard to avoid it)
- once you've got the disease, avoid eating or drinking anything while you're vomiting.
- babies and toddlers can be tried on about an ounce of breastmilk or Pedialyte after they've gone for an hour without throwing up. For older children and adults, a few ounces of water, Gatorade or Pedialyte.
- check for signs of dehydration: fewer than three wet diapers / trips to the bathroom in 24 hours; dry mucous glands in the mouth, compared to well family members; no tears when crying. If you think your child is dehydrated, take him to the hospital. Pregnant women and babies are most vulnerable to dehydration.
- after four hours without throwing up, it's safe to try bland foods. I've heard differing opinions on what is best and would love to hear your advice; toast, bananas, applesauce and rice are popular options, and chicken broth and chicken noodle soup are also recommended.
- one pediatric nurse recommended foods high in fat to recover from the diarrhea that usually follows the vomiting, such as toast with butter, whole milk, ice cream, fatty meat, and whole milk yogurt, and to avoid foods high in fiber, such as dried fruit. There seem to be two very different schools of thought here though.
- the illness can last between 24 and 60 hours, but you could be contagious for quite a while afterward. In my family's experience, the vomiting lasts 12 to 24 hours (and a bit longer for the younger babies) and the general achiness, fatigue, and light-headedness goes on for as much as three days.
Is your family sick too? Any helpful hints or advice?