Ask any parents how long stomach flu lasts in babies and their response is sure to be, "too long!" Indeed, a simple 24-hour bug can give you the illusion that your baby will be sick forever. Stomach flu, also known as gastroenteritis, is a catch-all term for an illness caused by one of many types of viruses producing similar symptoms of aches and vomiting.
How Long the Flu Lasts
Stomach flu's duration depends on your baby's immune system and the particular virus your baby contracts. Generally, stomach flu in babies lasts anywhere from 24 hours to seven days, though not all symptoms will last the entire duration of illness. Vomiting may last only two days, while your child may have diarrhoea for up to a week.
Types of Stomach Flu
Stomach flu is caused by one of many viruses. Rotavirus is the leading cause of stomach flu for children age 3 to 15 months. Other stomach flu culprits include adenovirus, caliciviruses, astrovirus and bacteria caused by food poisoning.
Symptoms of the Stomach Flu
All strains of the stomach flu produce similar symptoms--vomiting, diarrhoea, aches, fever, abdominal pain, fatigue and headaches. A baby may not have all symptoms.
Preventing the Stomach Flu
Because it's viral, stomach flu cannot be treated by antibiotics. The best cure is to have your baby drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. The illness will run its course as long as your little one is not dehydrated. Breastfed babies should be allowed to nurse freely because breast milk is gentle on the stomach. Formula-fed babies should be given formula diluted with a paediatric electrolyte solution. Call your baby's doctor for specific instructions or if you have any questions.
You can minimise your baby's risk of contracting stomach flu by regularly washing your and your baby's hands and by making sure baby does not share eating utensils or teething toys with others. As much as you can, keep your baby away from people who've recently been sick. Keep in mind that people can still be contagious days after their symptoms disappear.
Warning About the Stomach Flu
Stomach flu doesn't necessarily warrant a trip to the paediatrician's office; however, you should take your baby to be checked if you notice any of the following signs: low output of wet diapers (there should be six wet diapers a day), vomiting more than five times in a day, sunken eyes, discoloured appendages, dry lips, excessive fussiness, or a sunken fontanelle (soft spot). Also contact your doctor immediately if your baby has a fever over 38.3 degrees Celsius, has blood in the stool or has a swollen belly.