Stomach Infections in Children

Ambili S Kartha
3 to 7 years

Created by Ambili S Kartha
Updated on Jul 28, 2020

Stomach Infections in Children
Reviewed by Expert panel

Stomach infection in children is common during hot and humid weather. Besides, as the children are more or less stuck at home in the present scenario, their water intake may become incredibly low. All these factors can trigger stomach infection in children.

What Is Stomach Infection?

Stomach infection or gastroenteritis is a condition in which the gastrointestinal tract gets infected. The inflammation of the stomach and intestines can bring about diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach pain.

How Serious Is Stomach Infection In Children?

The major concern of stomach infection in children is the possibility of dehydration. Severe dehydration has serious consequences. Also, excessive vomiting and loose motion can adversely affect the electrolyte level. When sodium and potassium in the body fall too low, it can bring about serious consequences like low BP and increased heart rate.

What Causes Stomach Infection In Kids?

The most common causes of stomach infection in children are:

  • Viruses

  • Bacteria (Food Poisoning)

  • Intestinal Parasites.

Viral gastroenteritis

Viral infections of the digestive tract can bring about mild episodes of Gastroenteritis. The viral gastroenteritis in children is usually brought about by rotaviruses, astroviruses, adenoviruses, enteroviruses (during summer months), and noroviruses. However, in children under age five, rotaviruses are found to be the main cause of stomach infection. Viral Gastroenteritis usually lasts one to three days.

How The Child Contracts It?

Usually, the child contracts the virus by touching the contaminated surface and putting the hand in the mouth before washing the hands.

Bacterial gastroenteritis 

Even though the name seems a little complicated, we all know this type of stomach infection by another name - food poisoning. If the food is not prepared or stored properly, Bacteria starts to grow on its surface. These bacteria produce a chemical secretion called toxins. If a child happens to consume this food, symptoms of Gastroenteritis are triggered. Sometimes certain types of bacteria produce severe forms of toxins that bring about high fever, stomach cramps, and vomiting just a few hours after eating.

How The Child Contracts It?

The child usually contacts bacteria by eating contaminated foods or water. However, in some instances, the Bacterial Gastroenteritis is also found to develop during or after taking a course of antibiotics.

Intestinal Parasites

The parasites from contaminated food and water and undercooked food can also bring about stomach infection in children. 

How The Child Contracts It?

 A child can contract intestinal parasites via dirty hands and through contaminated water or food.

What Are The Symptoms Of Stomach Infection?

90% of children who contract Gastroenteritis exhibit mild symptoms. Depending on the reason, the signs of stomach infection in children usually last from 24 hours to a week. However, in the case of stomach infection caused by a parasite, the symptoms can last longer. This can bring about long-lasting diarrhea that comes and goes, which in turn paves the way to tiredness and weight loss.

In children, mild stomach infections bring about :

  • Poor appetite

  • Mild diarrhea

  • Stomach pain

  • Abdominal cramps

  • Vomiting

  • Low-grade fever

  • Nausea 

  • Headache 

In severe cases of stomach infection, the child develops.

  • Severe, watery diarrhea that lasts more than two weeks

  • Signs of dehydration 

  • Blood or pus in the stool

  • High temperature or fever that lasts longer than several days

How Long Does Stomach Infection Lasts In Kids?

More often, the mild, uncomplicated stomach infection lasts between one to three days. Vomiting usually stops within 24 hours. However, the child may have an occasional loose motion for more than a week, even after all other signs disappear.  

Some Don'ts When Your Child Has Gastroenteritis

Here are some don'ts to consider while your child having stomach flu:

  • Don't give greasy or spicy food

  • Don't give soft drinks, carbonated drinks, or sport drinks

  • Don't give undiluted sugary juices

  • Don't send the child to school before completely recovering from a stomach infection.

  • Don’t give caffeinated drinks and coffee. This will interrupt the sleep. Rest and sleep are two important factors for fast recovery from a stomach infection. 

  • Don't give dairy products or fiber-rich food.

  • Do not give OTC anti-diarrhea medicines to the child unless prescribed by the doctor. These medicines can adversely affect the intestine's ability to get rid of harmful microbes and toxins out of the body through the stool. This can worsen the condition.

How Can We Prevent Stomach Infection In Children?

Rotavirus vaccine helps to protect children from stomach infection caused by rotavirus. Other preventive measures include:

  • Follow strict personal hygiene.

  • Wash the hands with soap and water before eating food

  • Wash the vegetables and fruits thoroughly before making salads

  • Cook meat thoroughly

  • Keep the kitchen countertops and utensils neat and clean.

  • Never give the child unpasteurized milk.

  • While traveling through an area where sanitation is poor, make sure to rely on bottled water only. 

  • Don't let the child eat from street food vendors.

  • Never keep the food open, instead make sure it is well covered.

Treatment For Stomach Infection In Children

Ample rest and adequate fluids are enough to treat mild stomach infection in children. Generally, the doctors prefer to let the virus run its own course. Usually, medications for loose motion tend to worsen and prolong the symptoms. On the other hand, children with more severe symptoms and those who are at risk of severe dehydration need close monitoring and, if needed, shifted to hospital.  

To Prevent The Possibility Of Dehydration

  • Urge the child to drink plenty of fluid. In case the child is too nauseated to drink fluid, urge him to take small sips more frequently. 

  • Drinking water alone is not sufficient for proper rehydration. Children may lose electrolytes significantly due to diarrhea and vomiting. Losing electrolytes can result in a dangerous drop in sodium level in the blood. Give the child a rehydration solution. You can make a rehydration solution by mixing four ¼ cups of water, six teaspoons of sugar and a ½ teaspoon of salt. 

What Should Children Eat During Stomach Infection?

You can start giving food as the vomiting of the child subsides. Eventually, you can recommence the child’s normal diet. However, you should keep on giving oral rehydration solution. Start with an easily digestible BRAT diet. This comprises bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. For older children, you can also give lean meats, crackers, grilled or boiled chicken, and potatoes. For the time being, keep the child away from fatty foods and sugary beverages. 

In case the child starts to vomit or feel nauseous again, assume the stomach is not yet ready for solid food. Therefore, wait for some more time before starting solids.

When To Seek Medical Attention For Stomach Infection In Children?

The combination of vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, and poor appetite occur during stomach infection. All these factors contribute to dehydration. Any symptoms of dehydration required medical attention. Also seek immediate medical attention if:

  • If the symptoms are not getting better even after five day

  •  High fever

  • There is severe abdominal pain or a swollen abdomen.

  • The child already has health conditions that compromise immunity.

  • The child is under immune-suppressing medication.

  • There is a presence of blood or bile (greenish fluid) in the vomit.

  • Presence of blood in the stool

  • rules like washing hands frequently. If the child is diabetic

In the current scenario, the last thing we want is hospital visits for health issues. So urge the child to stay well hydrated and strictly follow the hygiene 




This content has been checked & validated by Doctors and Experts of the parentune Expert panel. Our panel consists of Neonatologist, Gynecologist, Peadiatrician, Nutritionist, Child Counselor, Education & Learning Expert, Physiotherapist, Learning disability Expert and Developmental Pead.

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| Jul 29, 2020

Thanks for sharing this blog.... really beneficial

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| Apr 25, 2021

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