Stomach viruses occur frequently in childhood and are not normally a cause for concern. There are many different causes of stomach viruses, most of which require no medical treatment unless dehydration, high fevers or blood in the stool are present. Parents should always consult a pediatrician with any questions or concerns.
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Gastroenteritis is the medical term for a stomach virus, or stomach flu. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, explains that gastroenteritis occurs when inflammation is present in the stomach and intestines.
Several different types of viruses can cause gastroenteritis in children. One of the most common is rotavirus, which is highly contagious and frequently spread around daycare centers. Adenovirus, norovirus and astrovirus are also forms of stomach viruses commonly seen in toddlers.
Transmission and Prevention
Stomach viruses can be transmitted by dirty hands or by sharing cups, plates or other utensils. Frequent hand washing can help prevent transmission. Prohibiting children from sharing food or utensils in school and daycare settings can also reduce transmission rates. Author, speaker and pediatrician Dr. Alan Greene notes that active culture yogurt can help prevent toddlers from getting stomach viruses.
Symptoms of a stomach virus primarily include vomiting and diarrhea, notes the CDC. Abdominal pain or cramping can also occur. Greene says that a fever may also be present when a toddler has a stomach virus, and that the severity of symptoms may vary greatly between children.
Signs and symptoms of a stomach virus may not occur for one or two days after infection with the virus. Once symptoms start, they may last one to 10 days depending on the type and severity of the virus.
Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses, notes BabyCenter.com. Treatment involves keeping toddlers well-hydrated by offering liquids such as water, ice chips, ice pops, juice or electrolyte drinks. Dairy products should be avoided to prevent further stomach upset. BabyCenter.com notes that medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be given to relieve fevers. Use of medications to relieve diarrhea should be avoided in children, notes Greene, so as not to prevent the expulsion of viral organisms from the body.