The stomach flu. When your child contracts this nasty bug, it is a nightmare as a parent. The last thing you ever want to see is your child experiencing any pain or discomfort. Unfortunately, the stomach flu brings pain and discomfort in spades. Not to mention, it is highly contagious, so once one family member goes down, you can often expect the others to fall like dominoes.
I have some recent experience with exactly this. After working too much and too hard lately, I decided to take a much needed day off to celebrate my birthday. I have vowed to practice a bit more self-love and booked myself a massage and facial. For the first time in months…no, years….I felt relaxed. It was just the bliss this mama needed.
However, my feeling of tranquility was short-lived. Within hours of returning home from the spa, by daughter began throwing up. At first, I just thought it was the rich foods we had eaten for dinner, coupled with the celebratory birthday cake. My daughter has a very sensitive tummy and does not regularly consume sugar.
A few hours later, I looked like I was channeling the exorcist. The stomach flu had taken us both down for the count. After days of being plagued by this nasty bug, I realize that there a few things that I could have done that maybe could have prevented either the illness or it’s severity. I also learned a few effective treatments that lessened the pain of the side effects.
Please note: I am NOT a doctor. I am just a mom who likes to use natural remedies whenever possible. These strategies are merely suggestions. Please always consult a health care professional.
Tips for Preventing the Stomach Flu
1. Get Plenty of Rest
Do as I say, not as I do. I am notorious for not getting enough sleep. You have probably heard the sleep is healing and it is true. This article from The Daily Mail describes how sleep helps prevent illness. The article describes how sleep helps our immune system remember what invading germs look like, so it knows how to attack them.
I was already sleep deprived before getting hit with the stomach flu. Throughout the duration of our bout with the stomach flu, I did not sleep for three solid days. This means, it took me longer to recover and it made it even more difficult to care for my sick child. If I had been more diligent about getting rest, perhaps I would never have picked up the bug or I may have been able to recover more quickly. Take my advice, Mamas. Get your rest!
2. Wash Your Hands
This one I am diligent about and although we still got sick, it can’t hurt to maintain this good habit. We wash our hands all the time. I encourage my daughter and my students to sing “The Happy Birthday” song while they wash to ensure proper handwashing time. This makes handwashing fun, but also ensures scrubbing for at least 10-15 seconds.
This article details the steps to proper handwashing and also explains the positive and negatives of “antibacterial soaps”. I have found warm water, plenty of soap, and scrubbing for the designated amount of time works wonders. However, when out-and-about, I carry antibacterial hand sanitizer if there are no sinks nearby. Toddlers seem to possess an innate ability to touch things that you would never want them to touch!
Handwashing helps prevent the spread of germs. This is great to prevent illness but also can help stop the spread of something super contagious, like the stomach flu. I ensured that everyone in my household washed their hands…pretty much nonstop. It is a miracle we have any skin on our hands left. However, it is also a miracle because my husband and my visiting father-in-law did not get sick! Handwashing works!
3. Stay Hydrated
Drinking plenty of water every day is a good practice to have every day and one of my New Year’s Resolutions. I have a bad habit of getting so busy throughout my day that I forget to drink water…at all.
Everyday Health says that one of the 10 Ways to Prevent Cold and Flu is by drinking the recommended eight glasses of water per day. My goal is to drink half my body weight in ounces of water per day. I notice that when I do that I look better and feel better.
Same for my daughter. No sugary beverages here! If she has juice, I dilute it with about 1 part juice to 7-8 parts water. Drinking water helps keep your body and your immune system in tip-top shape!
4. Eat Right
In the days prior to the arrival of the terrible stomach flu, I was teasing my daughter that she reminded me of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. She was eating me out of house and home! I was halfway convinced her growth spurt might just turn her into a butterfly!
Toddler’s love to snack, but they seem to go through periods of eating and not eating. When they are feeling like a hungry caterpillar, load them up on nutrient-rich, immune building fruits and vegetables. Eating right is a great habit for the entire family to indulge in, but is especially important during cold and flu season. Check out this article from Woman’s Day Magazine about how you can Fight the Flu with Food!
5. Take Probiotics
Since my daughter’s very first day of life, her tummy has been her Achilles’ Heel. Her Achilles’ Tummy, if you will. As I mentioned in my post, How to Get Your Toddler to Eat Healthy Food, I began making my own baby food to avoid my daughter’s digestive troubles.
No matter what my daughter seemed to eat, she would either become constipated or have a poo-explosion of epic proportions. I was careful about what I ate while nursing and equally careful about preparing her food. These measures helped, but administering probiotics seemed to give us both the extra edge towards maintaining her digestive health.
Probiotics basically help your gut stay in check. When trying to avoid a gastrointestinal virus, like the stomach flu, it makes sense to keep your child’s gut as healthy as possible. I liked Zarbee’s Naturals Baby Probiotic Supplement for when my daughter was a baby. Now, we use Digestive Advantage Kids Daily Probiotic Gummies because they are gummies and thus, fun for toddlers to eat!
Tips for Treating the Stomach Flu
Okay, the worst has happened and your child begins heaving and you know the stomach flu has struck. Despite my best efforts, my daughter and I both got hit hard with this virus…on my birthday, no less. As I was praying to the porcelain gods and channeling my inner exorcist, I immediately began thinking, “What do I do now?”
1. Stay Hydrated
Yes, I know. The last thing anyone wants to do is consume anything while getting sick, but becoming dehydrated can be very dangerous for your little ones. I learned a couple of lessons the hard way this time around and learned some great tips from a nurse during our lovely stay at Urgent Care.
- Try not to allow your child to consume any liquids within 10-15 minutes of getting sick. This just upsets the belly further.
- After 10-15 minutes, try to get your child to drink small amounts of clear liquids (a few tablespoons at a time) every five minutes. This is super fun to do all night long with a toddler who has no concept of time and just wants to guzzle water, but it really does help!
- Stick to clear liquids (water, clear colored diluted Gatorade, clear Pedialyte)
- Breastmilk is totally safe to give your baby/toddler! It will help your toddler stay hydrated and provide the exact antibodies they need to fight the virus. If you have the stomach flu, you cannot pass the virus to your baby through your breastmilk. See this article for more information.
2. Got Ginger?
Just as ginger helped ease my epic morning sickness, ginger can help ease that churning tummy while suffering from the stomach flu. For your little one, skip the 7-Up and try Vernor’s Gingerale. That is just my opinion, of course, but all other ginger ales pale in comparison. It is just the right amount of gingery-ness with plenty of bubbles.
You can also try making ginger tea by steeping grated ginger tea in boiling water for about ten minutes. I’m going to be honest, ginger tea is most likely not the most “kid friendly” solution, but if you are simultaneously suffering the gastrointestinal effects of the flu, you should definitely give it a try. Perhaps with the right amount of honey, your tykes might at least try a sip!
3. Use Peppermint Essential Oil
Hours into our stomach flu misery with no end in sight, I turned to my natural mama friends for their best tips. They all recommended using peppermint essential oil. Simply inhaling this oil can have a positive effect. I also rubbed the oil onto the bottom of my daughter’s feet.
I found this article listing 5 Essential Oil Based Remedies for Nausea/Vomiting/Upset Stomach. Thankfully, I had Peppermint, Lemon, and Lavender oils on hand and rotated all three. I would like to believe these oils helped us physically, but it also helped with that awful “sick” smell in the air.
4. Get Clean
As mentioned above, I am a bit of a germ-o-phobe with the obsessive handwashing. However, during a bout of the flu, it is important to keep everything clean. I constantly wiped down surfaces that my daughter and I came into contact with. Then, there was the laundry.
Let’s just say…toddlers do not have the best aim. In addition, to washing numerous changes of clothes, I washed all of the bedding and towels. Once recovered, I did eleven loads of laundry in one day. Eleven. We are a family of three.
Washing everything in sight helps stop the spread of those pesky germs. This article explains that the germs which cause the stomach flu can live for hours and even days on some surfaces. Washing your laundry using the hottest water setting and drying on the highest temperature will help prevent the spread of these nasty bugs.
5. Consult Your Doctor
The stomach flu can last from 12 hours up to 3 days! However, vomiting should stop after 24 hours. If the vomiting persists or you notice that your child is becoming dehydrated, consult your doctor immediately. We ended up taking my daughter to Urgent Care because she continued to vomit well past the 24-hour mark.
Miraculously, my daughter was able to keep a bit of fluids down at a time and was not dehydrated, but she was absolutely miserable. It was the weekend, so we spent hours in the Urgent Care waiting room. If you are able to see your Pediatrician, I would highly recommend going that route!
My daughter was prescribed an anti-nausea medication that finally stopped her from throwing up. Once this symptom was relieved, she was able to get better with plenty of rest and clear fluids. After she was able to successfully hold down liquids, we gave her the BRAT diet for another day. BRAT stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. If you have a toddler, you know that minus Goldfish crackers, this is essentially their diet already.
Never hesitate to contact your doctor when it comes to your child’s health. Don’t worry about looking like a crazy, overprotective mom. You are protective and watching your child suffer from any kind of illness will naturally make you a little nuts. It’s okay! Your child’s health is more important than your sanity and let’s be honest…you probably don’t have that much of it left anyway!
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What are your best tips for preventing and treating the stomach flu? Please comment and share below!