"Stomach flu" is a term used to describe a viral infection called gastroenteritis. Despite the name of this contagious infection, the stomach flu is not caused by the influenza virus. The stomach flu is a common infection that can affect infants, children, adolescents and adults. Children who develop any stomach flu symptoms should receive further evaluation and care from a medical professional.
One of the most common symptoms associated with the stomach flu is diarrhea. Affected children may experience frequent bowel movement urges that yield unusually watery or loose stools. Diarrhea may also be accompanied by abdominal bloating, cramping or pain. These stomach flu symptoms typically arise within four to 48 hours following initial exposure to the virus. Severe or persistent diarrhea symptoms can cause a child to lose excessive amounts of body fluid, which can lead to dehydration. Children who develop diarrhea symptoms should receive additional care from a medical professional.
Vomiting is another common side effect of the stomach flu in children. The pathogenic virus that causes this infection inflames and irritates the intestinal tract. As a result, affected children can become nauseous or may begin vomiting. Excessive vomiting--especially if it occurs in conjunction with diarrhea--can increase a child's risk of developing dehydration symptoms, such as dizziness, headache, increased thirst or fatigue. Stomach flu symptoms typically last for a few days in most children but may persist for up to 10 days. Children who experience persistent or severe vomiting should be evaluated by a pediatrician immediately.
In addition to stomach-related symptoms, children with the stomach flu can develop flulike symptoms due to this infection. These flulike symptoms can include a low-grade fever, chills, sweating, muscle or joint pain, decreased appetite or weight loss. Some children can develop cold, clammy skin as a symptom of the stomach flu. Affected children can appear unusually fatigued or may complain that they don't feel well. These stomach flu symptoms can also be indicative of other types of infection and should be reported to a medical professional immediately.