What is the “Stomach Bug”?

Gastroenteritis is a stomach infection that can cause diarrhea and vomiting. It is usually caused by a virus in the intestinal tract. Viruses get into the intestinal tract by putting dirty hands, toys or other objects near or in the mouth. There is more cause for concern in babies and young children than in adults because vomiting can lead to the loss of fluids and minerals from the body (dehydration).

What are the signs of dehydration?

  • No urine output in 8– hours (babies usually have 6–8 wet diapers in 24 hours)
  • Unusually sleepy or difficult to arouse
  • The urine is dark yellow and may smell “strong,” like ammonia
  • Mouth saliva is thick and sticky rather than thin and watery
  • No tears when crying

When do I call the doctor?

  • Diarrhea lasts more than 7–10 days.
  • Your child shows any of the following signs:
    • No urine output in 8–12 hours
    • No tears when crying
    • Unusually drowsy or fussy
    • Eyes appear sunken
    • The child is extremely thirsty
    • Blood is present in diarrhea or vomit
    • Your child vomits dark green (like the color of a Christmas tree)

How can I prevent my child from getting sick in the first place?

It is not possible to keep a child from being exposed to the germs that cause gastroenteritis. However, good hygiene and hand washing are the best ways to prevent the spread of the illness.

Encourage everyone in the family to wash their hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, after handling diapers and before handling food or preparing food or drink.