Gastroenteritis in Toddlers: Causes & Treatment

4 min read

Written by Bindu Raichura

Bindu Raichura

If mild diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and irritability are the visible signs shown by your toddler, there are chances that s/he has been attacked with an infection of the stomach and intestines. This infection can also be referred to as gastroenteritis in toddlers. Since this is a matter of serious concern, you will be provided with detailed information on all the sub-heads related to toddler gastroenteritis. Let’s begin!

gastroenteritis in toddlers

What is Gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis is an infection of the digestive system (basically stomach and intestines), which causes inflammation in the digestive tract, as a result of which vomiting happens. It may be caused because of any virus, bacteria, or parasitic condition which is unfavorable for the normal person. The other names for gastroenteritis are tummy bug, food poisoning, stomach flu, intestinal flu, and traveler’s diarrhea.

What Causes Gastroenteritis in Toddlers?

Gastroenteritis in toddlers or stomach flu in toddlers may occur because of causes that can be classified under viruses, bacteria, parasites, chemical toxins, and drugs. In very rare situations, it may also be the result of an allergic condition (eosinophilic gastroenteritis) or a food allergy.

  • Viral Gastroenteritis:

In toddlers Viral Gastroenteritis is contagious and usually spreads at schools and daycare centers. The most common stomach viruses in toddlers are Norovirus, Rotavirus, Astrovirus, and Adenovirus. The viral gastroenteritis spreads through sneezing, spitting, or fecal-oral transmission as initiated by the infected individual.

  • Bacterial Gastroenteritis:

It is caused because of touching or eating contaminated foods, drinking unpasteurized milk or juice, touching animals with a bacterial infection, drinking contaminated water, or swallowing contaminated water from swimming pools. The bacterias that cause gastroenteritis in toddlers are Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, Yersinia, and Clostridium Difficile. Such bacterias also grow in foods that are not properly refrigerated or are stale.

  • Parasitic Gastroenteritis:

The Parasitic Gastroenteritis like Giardia Intestinalis and Cryptosporidium Parvum happens because of drinking contaminated water or also by fecal-oral transmission.

  • Gastroenteritis Due to Chemicals:

This may occur because of accidentally ingesting chemical toxins found in plants or certain kinds of exotic seafood, or chemically contaminated water and food.

  • Gastroenteritis Due to Drugs:

This is caused when accidentally kids intake antacids or antibiotics.

stomach viruses in toddlers

What are the Symptoms of Gastroenteritis in Toddlers?

The most common symptoms of stomach flu in toddlers or gastroenteritis in toddlers are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Fever
  • Poor Appetite

What are the Treatment Options?

  • Although gastroenteritis gets an automatic clean sweep after a few days of getting infected, the risk of dehydration occurs in toddlers. So fluids and rehydration solutions are the primary treatment options for kids and in very rare conditions, one might need to give a dosage of antibiotics and other anti-vomit medicines.
  • It is advisable to ensure a proper intake of fluids in case of stomach flu/gastroenteritis in toddlers. Over-the-counter Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS) are to be given under medical supervision, over and above breast milk, or formula milk. It is easier for your toddler to take small sips for a longer duration than a big quantity at a time.
  • If the toddler stops vomiting, gradually shift to an easily digestible normal diet with rice, bread, and potatoes. Say no to oily fried items for some time.
  • In case there is a need to give anti-diarrhea medicine, then do so under medical supervision only because certain such medicines might interfere with the natural potential of the intestines.
  • Full bed rest is recommended

gastroenteritis toddler treatment

What are the Preventive Measures for Gastroenteritis in Toddlers?

  • Get the toddler vaccinated against rotavirus, which is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in toddlers.
  • Train your kids to properly wash their hands with soap and water after using the washroom and before touching or eating any food or liquid.
  • Eat only properly cleaned and cooked fruits and vegetables respectively.
  • Don’t give unpasteurized milk or unpasteurized apple cider to kids.
  • In case there is an infected kid at your place, make sure to clean the bathroom surfaces with chlorine-based treatments.

When does it Become Essential to Visit a Doctor?

If diarrhea and vomiting of the toddler do not stop even after 2-3 days, and the below-mentioned signs are visible, then it is suggestive to visit the doctor without delay:

  • The toddler stops urinating.
  • Your little one develops a dry mouth. This means there is a lack of saliva formation in the mouth.
  • S/he cries without any tears.
  • Fever gets over 102 F.
  • S/he shows a lack of energy.
  • The toddler gets cranky.
  • If a soft spot develops on the top of the kid’s head.
  • If there is visible blood or pus in a toddler’s stool or vomit.

The gastroenteritis in toddlers, which is commonly referred to as stomach flu, can be treated and healed within a few days in most cases. But sometimes situations might get out of control as shared above. In such cases, don’t hesitate to visit the doctor immediately. And remember, in any case, proper provision for liquid intake should be there to prevent dehydration in toddlers.

Bindu Raichura,

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