Children’s stomach flu (gastroenteritis)

Most of the children’s stomach bugs are caused by viruses. Gastroenteritis, most commonly known as the stomach flu, is often suffered as an epidemic, since it spreads easily through hands and as a droplet infection. The best way to prevent the stomach flu is to wash hands. The symptoms often go away in a couple of days. The most important thing during the recovery is to make sure of fluid balance. The smaller the child, the faster the risk of dehydration will occur.

Symptoms of the stomach flu

The symptoms of the stomach flu are a weak stomach, stomach pains and vomiting. Sometimes muscle pain, headaches and fever are included.

The cause of the diarrhea is usually a virus. In Finland, rotavirus is the biggest cause of diarrhea and during the winter time this virus causes strong symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting. Prolonged, the virus can last even up to over a week and can cause dehydration symptoms for a small child. At the start there may be coughing and a runny nose, which is followed by the vomiting phase after a couple of days and after this the actual diarrhea starts. Nowadays, the rotavirus vaccine is part of the general vaccination program. Therefore, the rotavirus epidemics during each winter have clearly alleviated and the need for hospital treatments for small children has decreased.

Also, some other viruses, such as norovirus can cause diarrhea and vomiting. However, norovirus usually occurs only on adults. In Finland diarrhea caused by bacteria such as salmonella, shigella and campylobacter are rare on children. Hence in these cases, the diarrhea is often caught while on a holiday to the south. To treat this kind of diarrhea antibiotics may be needed, so therefore it is recommended to get tests done after catching a stomach flu while on a holiday.

When to go to the doctor

Take your child to the doctor, if:

  • the child is under 6 months old
  • the diarrhea or vomiting is nonstop
  • there’s blood in the child’s feces
  • the child is tired and limp
  • the diarrhea continues for more than 3 days
  • the child’s weight goes down
  • there is a high fever (over 39) with the diarrhea
  • the disease was caught while on a holiday to the south

Mehiläinen’s pediatricians as well as general practitioners can treat and help children suffering from a stomach flu. If you need instructions or want to book an appointment for your child, call 010 414 0414* or book a time online. We offer help through the phone every day from 6am to 22pm. Also, remember, that you can get help from the Digital Clinic in the OmaMehiläinen app as well as in the web service around the clock!

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Treating the stomach flu

The stomach flu and diarrhea usually last about 2 to 5 days and recover on their own. The most important thing is to make sure the child gets enough liquids and stays hydrated. The child can be given foods and liquids, which they accept to take. Spicy foods and foods with high sugar content are not recommended. The pharmacy offers so called diarrhea drinks, which are made for helping with the diarrhea. Lactic acid bacteria products can also be used to help the recovery and ease symptoms.