How to survive when a stomach bug hits your household

Child and Adolescent Health
General Wellness
Kid in pajamas lays in bed feeling sick with stomach bug

By: Our partners at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Many stomach bugs, also called gastroenteritis, are very common in young children and are caused by viruses such as rotavirus and norovirus. Both are highly contagious viruses and that last three to seven days, but sometimes it can be shorter and, unfortunately, sometimes it lasts longer.

A child or adult may become infected more than once, but, usually, the initial case is the most severe and subsequent infections are milder. Want to avoid getting sick with the stomach bug? Your best defense is thorough hand washing, especially before eating and after using the bathroom.

How to care for a child with a stomach bug at home

When your child gets sick with a stomach bug, we know you want to do everything you can to help them feel better. You can treat stomach bugs at home by making sure your child keeps drinking fluids and gets plenty of rest.

The best way to keep your child well hydrated is with an electrolyte-containing solution such as Pedialyte®️. Have your child take small sips frequently throughout the day—every five minutes or so. Avoid having them fill their stomach too much at once, or it might come back up. Also avoid anything too high in sugar, including soda, juices or sports drinks, which might make the diarrhea worse. Water will prevent dehydration but doesn't replace any of the salts or sugars that your child may be losing.

For a breast-feeding infant, give breast milk or formula.

Continue with solid food if your child can tolerate it. Your child may vomit a few times as they adjust. That's OK. Take a step back by giving them smaller amounts of food and drink and work up from there. Soon your child will be back on the road to good health with lots of energy.

For more on when to seek medical care for the stomach bug and how to keep others in your house from getting sick, read the full article on CHOP's website.