Cold and Flu Season: Dealing With Stomach Bugs

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

As most of you with reflux babies know, stomach bugs can hit our little ones with more force than most. I have seen firsthand that my child with acid reflux gets sicker from stomach viruses than my children with out reflux. My daughter's GI verified that hunch and stated that it is most likely because her GI tract is already irritated to start with.

This issue can be really frustrating for parents and can make dealing with stomach illnesses much more dangerous as well. If your child with acid reflux gets a stomach virus there are things you can do to help as well as things you need to keep an eye on.

Keeping your child hydrated while they deal with a stomach bug can be very important and is often the difference between requiring a hospital stay or treating the illness at home.
Initially you may need to give your child's stomach a rest and not force them to eat or drink right away, even if they want to.

When the initial symptoms subside you should encourage your child to drink liquids like electrolyte drinks such as Pedialyte. You may need to start slowly by giving a sip or two every 30 minutes. Forcing too much too soon can backfire. If your child is still formula fed you should check with the pediatrician to see if you should pull formula in place of Pedialyte and for what time period. While it may sound like a good idea to push water it can often cause more nausea than other beverages.

Once your child is done vomiting you may end up dealing with a case of diarrhea. The BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and T oast) diet can be useful in easing the symptoms naturally. Again, you don't want to force too much too soon but these foods can help slow down loose bowel movements caused by a stomach virus.
It is usually not recommended to give children medicines to decrease loose stools because it will likely just lead to more vomiting.

Probiotics can be useful in limiting the duration of a stomach bug. Studies have shown that even with some of the worst stomach viruses probiotics can shorten the time a person is sick. Some studies even suggest that they can help to prevent getting sick by boosting the immune system. My favorite brand is BioGia but many doctors will have their own favorites. Check with your pediatrician to see what they recommend for your child.

Liquid or chewable versions can make
easy to give to little ones.

If you notice that your child is not wetting as many diapers, is using the restroom less frequently, does not have tears when they cry, has less moisture in the mouth or looks dry and flushed you need to have them evaluated by a doctor. Dehydration can come on fast and can cause serious issues, especially for infants. Anything that goes beyond a week should also be addressed with your child's physician to make sure that there is not another cause for symptoms.

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.