How to help your sick child avoid dehydration
Does it seem like everyone you know, especially families with young children, are coming down with something lately?
“You’ve likely been hearing about friends or family members getting sick with a stomach bug,” says Dr. Cristina Senger, pediatrician at Aurora Sinai Medical Center, in Milwaukee, Wis. “That’s because cases of norovirus have been on a steady rise in the U.S. since August, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
Viral gastroenteritis, commonly known as the ‘stomach bug’, can cause an infected individual to suffer from symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains, headaches and fevers.
“When children are feeling sick and generally unwell with these symptoms, it leads them to eating and drinking less,” Dr. Senger explains. “Children are more susceptible to dehydration than adults, so a decreased appetite during a viral gastroenteritis illness can be a challenging problem for parents.”
If your child is sick with a stomach bug, Dr. Senger offers the following advice:
- Try not to worry if your child eats fewer solids for a couple days while they are sick. But it is important they drink more fluids than normal to prevent dehydration as they are losing fluids through vomiting and diarrhea.
- Offer smaller amounts of fluids more frequently throughout the day, and keep an eye on your child’s urine output, which can serve as an indicator of how hydrated they are.
- Offer fluids besides water to help encourage your child to drink. Electrolyte drinks and popsicles are great hydration options and come in a variety of flavors that may appeal to your child.
- If your child isn’t tolerating fluids and is having decreased urine output, contact their pediatrician.
“It can be hard to ward off germs this time of year, especially when something like norovirus is making its way through our population,” says Dr. Senger. “Remember that the most important thing you and your family can do is wash your hands. Teach your children proper hand hygiene. Remind them to cover their coughs and sneezes. Keep them hydrated, well nourished and rested as much as possible. Fortunately, norovirus tends to be a relatively seasonal virus, so we should be out of the woods soon.”
Are you trying to find a pediatrician? Look here if you live in Illinois. Look here if you live in Wisconsin.
About the Author
Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.