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Children are very prone to different infections of the gastrointestinal tract, including those caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites and other infective agents. Gastroenteritis is common in children and the same condition is also known as stomach flu, stomach virus or gastric flu. Treatment of this condition may involve certain antibiotic medications, prevention and/or proper care of potential dehydration and treatment of additional symptoms that may occur, such as fever, pain, diarrhea or vomiting.

Diarrhea and Dehydration

Most kids can be treated at home and parents should always be cautious about dehydration. Babies younger than 6 months and very young children are exposed to increased risk of dehydration due to gastroenteritis comparing to older kids. Children born with low birth weight are also much more likely to develop dehydration in first two years of their life. Sudden cessation of breastfeeding is another potential cause of dehydration in children with severe diarrhea.

It is essential to watch for vomiting and the stool. Vomiting twice or having 5 or more stools in a day increases the risk of developing dehydration, as well as inability to hold down any fluids.

Parents do not have to worry about dehydration if the child does not show any symptoms or can eat solid food after vomiting. Make some pasta or rice, or give them some bread or other carbohydrate food to eat. Avoid carbonated drinks if the child has diarrhea, because these fluids can worsen stomach troubles.

Oral rehydration solution (ORS) is great for children who have dehydration symptoms or are at risk to develop dehydration due to gastroenteritis. ORS can be bought without prescription and is easily dissolved in some water. It will replace salt, glucose and all other minerals lost through diarrhea. Ask your pharmacist how much ORS should your child drink.

Be aware that some children might need hospitalization due to severe dehydration.


Antibiotic drugs are not routine treatment for kids suffering from gastroenteritis. These are necessary in case of septicemia (when infection spreads to bloodstream), especially if gastroenteritis is caused by Salmonella or a child develops dysentery or cholera. Children with weakened immune system and those younger than 6 months may also be treated with antibiotics.

Other Treatment Options

Some kids may suffer from pain during gastroenteritis and they could use paracetamol. Aspirin is not recommended for kids under 16 years of age.

In certain cases, children may experience vomiting and diarrhea. Always consult your doctor before giving any drug to treat any of these symptoms in kids. Most doctors agree that children under 12 years of age should not be treated with antidiarrheal medications.

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