Coughing and Stomach Flu in Infants

Babys scratching his nose
A sick infant can be cause for concern. (Image: Svetlana Mihailova/Hemera/Getty Images)

Stomach flu, or gastroenteritis, occurs when your infant’s digestive tract becomes inflamed. This condition can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, fever and chills. If the stomach flu is accompanied by a cough, you need to take further steps to care for your infant. Always speak to your baby’s physician first to ensure that she doesn’t require immediate medical attention.

Causes

Because your infant is not able to verbalize symptoms or pains well, it can be difficult to determine if she has the stomach flu or another stomach-related illness, such as food poisoning or an intestinal obstruction. While symptoms may be similar, the stomach flu is characterized by vomiting, high fever and stomach pain that seems to occur very quickly and lasts anywhere from 12 to 72 hours, according to Ask Dr. Sears. Your infant also may experience diarrhea after the first or second day. This condition is different from food poisoning because food poisoning does not typically cause fever.

Infant’s Cough

Sometimes your infant’s cough can be a side effect of stomach flu. For example, if she has been vomiting, her throat may be itchy or scratchy due to the acidic nature of the stomach’s contents. A dry cough could be the result of vomiting, or your baby could also have a cold or allergies, according to Parents.com. A wet cough, however, can indicate that she has a respiratory illness that often accompanies a bacterial infection. The phlegm or mucus that your infant coughs up typically contains white blood cells that her body is using to fight off infection.

Treatment

Because stomach flu often comes on very quickly in infants, it is important to know the right care approach. When your infant is actively vomiting at regular intervals, refrain from giving her food or drink because this will further irritate her stomach. Instead, offer only small sips of water to keep her hydrated. When the vomiting slows down or ceases, your goal is to restore fluid balance through giving an electrolyte solution, white grape juice diluted with water or breast milk if your baby is nursing. You also can make an ice pop from electrolyte solution to give your baby. When vomiting has slowed or stopped, you can try bland foods, such as crackers, bread or broth, or resume giving your baby formula mixed in equal parts with electrolyte solution.

See Your Pediatrician

While coughing and stomach flu can be common in infants, some symptoms indicate the need to see your physician or visit the emergency room. This includes vomiting every five to 30 minutes for longer than eight to 12 hours; blood in your baby’s vomit, stiffness in the back of her neck; urine that is strong- and foul- smelling or symptoms of severe dehydration, such as confusion, lethargy and sunken eyes. If your baby is under two months of age, contact her physician when vomiting occurs.

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