Stomach illness in young children

Vomiting and diarrhea are the most common symptoms when children have stomach upset. The disease is almost always harmless and goes away within a couple of days. It is important that the child gets fluid, especially if the child has severe diarrhea at the same time. This is especially true for children under one year.

Both children and adults can get stomach upset. This text is about stomach ailments in children who are about six years or younger. For adults and children older than about six, you can read here.

Symptoms of stomach upset

A child who has stomach ailment has one or more of the following symptoms:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • stomach ache
  • fever
  • tired and powerless.

The child usually does not want to eat either.

The symptoms often come quickly a few days after the baby is infected. The vomiting often ceases within one or a few days. Diarrhea can last longer, sometimes up to a week.

Stomach illness is most common during the winter months, when you live more closely together indoors. Adults and children can also become stomach sick by tap water containing bacteria, parasites or viruses, and by poorly cooked food, sometimes after going abroad.

When and where should I seek care?

The vast majority of children who have stomach ailments do not need to seek care because the problems usually go away by themselves.

The risk of fluid deficiency increases if the child is less than 2 years old, unable to retain any fluid and at the same time have severe diarrhea. It can lead to dehydration in the child. It is a serious condition. The younger the child is, the more sensitive the child is to fluid deficiency and dehydration.

If a child has one or more of the following symptoms, call a medical center or telephone number 911  for medical advice.

  • The child is under six months and gets vomiting and diarrhea.
  • The child has not gotten better within a day.
  • The baby seems healthy, but the poop continues to be resolved for more than two weeks after a stomach ailment.
  • The child has a chronic illness and you are not sure if the child needs care.

Then you can get help to assess symptoms or help with where you can seek care.

If it’s in a hurry

If the child has diarrhea, vomiting and at the same time have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • The child does not get any fluid or pee much less than usual.
  • The child is tired, unable to play and is uninterested in the surroundings.
  • The baby has a lot of stomach ache and it does not go over or get worse.
  • There is blood in the vomiting or in the poop.

If it is closed at the health center or on-call reception, seek care at an emergency room.

What can I do for myself?

Give the child a drink often

Children who are stomach-sick need more fluid than usual. Therefore, offer the child a drink, preferably as soon as the child becomes sick. Give the child some fluid at a time, but often. Drinking the baby too much fluid at once can cause them to vomit again.

You can try to give fluid with a teaspoon if the child has difficulty drinking himself.

Avoid light products

Do not provide light drinks. They contain substances that can cause diarrhea.

Try ice cream

You can try to give ice cream if the child does not want to drink. But continue to offer the child fluid and fluid replacement. The child still needs fluid or fluid replacement, even if they eat the ice cream.

Continue breastfeeding or bottle feeding

If you breastfeed or give the baby breast milk with a bottle, continue with it, but more often than usual and even if the baby continues to vomit. If you are breast-feeding, you can try to milk or pump from the breast, and then give the milk with a spoon if the baby does not want to take the breast.

Drop liquid in mouth

You can also use a special plastic syringe that is used to give medicines to children. Syringe or drip liquid or breast milk to the inside of the cheek, then the fluid flows down the throat. Avoid spraying directly on the palate, as it may cause nausea. Syringes of various sizes are available at pharmacies.

Two teaspoons of liquid every five minutes

Children who are much vomited need to get two teaspoons of liquid about every five minutes. Two teaspoons is about 10 milliliters, if you give the liquid with a syringe. Often children need more fluid than you think. For example, a one-year-old may need just over a gallon of liquid for a day.

Liquid replacement may be needed

The best thing is to give fluid replacement if the child is much needed or has severe diarrhea, regardless of the child’s age. The fluid replacement contains appropriate amounts of salts and sugars that help restore the body’s fluid balance.

Sometimes the child may not want to drink the liquid substitute. You can then try to taste it with juice or a little concentrated juice.

Older children are not as sensitive to fluid deficiency and dehydration as younger children. You can therefore give an older child what the child wants to drink.

Liquid replacement for children is available at pharmacies. You can also mix your own fluid replacement for the baby. You then need to be very careful with the amount of sugar, salt and liquid to make it right.

When vomiting ends but diarrhea continues

It is common for the child to stop vomiting but continue to have diarrhea for a while. Children who breastfeed can continue with it as before. Children fed with a bottle can receive breast milk replacement, rice swelling or corn swelling depending on how old the child is. Start by giving small amounts at a time. Breast milk replacement is also called breast milk replacement.

You can try giving carrot soup if the baby is over six months. Carrot soup can have a stopping effect on diarrhea. You can make the soup yourself by mixing carrot puree and water.

When the child wants to start eating, it is good to give regular food. Give the child small amounts of food at a time. It can be good to avoid fruit because the baby can become loose in the stomach of the fruit. Also, avoid whole grain swelling and high fiber foods until the baby is well again.

If the vomiting returns

Pay attention to how the child is feeling, for example if the child is getting tired than usual, not being able to play or care about the surroundings. Seek care if the child becomes very tired, limp and powerless.

So you can prevent stomach upset

Stomach disease is usually due to a viral infection. Stomach disease infects easily and often several people are sick at the same time in the family or at the preschool.

Stomach disease infects easily. Therefore, it is good to do the following:

  • Wash your hands with liquid soap before meals and after a toilet.
  • Have your own towel or use paper towel.
  • Keep the toilet dry and clean.

If the baby is using a diaper

Put the used diapers in a plastic bag before throwing them in the trash can, if the child who has stomach ache uses diapers. Clean the changing table and wash your hands carefully after changing diapers.

How long should children stay at home?

Children should be at home when they vomit or have diarrhea. They can go back to preschool or family daycare when they eat as usual and have not vomited or have water-thin diarrhea for at least two days. Children who attend school should stay at home for one to two days after they become healthy.

People in the same household who are healthy do not have to stay home for preventative purposes. But it is important to wash your hands carefully and to go home immediately if you get symptoms.

In the case of large and prolonged gastrointestinal outbreaks with many sick children at a preschool or a family day care center, the spread of infection may be limited by the fact that healthy siblings who go to the same preschool or family daycare stay at home.

Investigation and investigation

You and the child are told about the trouble when you seek care. The doctor or nurse may also ask:

  • How long has the child been ill?
  • How often has the child vomited or had diarrhea?
  • Have there been large amounts of vomiting or diarrhea?
  • Can the child play?
  • Has the child eaten or drank anything that may have caused stomach upset?

The questions can also deal if you have recently been abroad.

The child is examined

The doctor examines the baby’s stomach by feeling and squeezing it gently. Blood pressure, temperature and heart rate are measured. The doctor also examines the skin and mucous membranes of the mouth by looking and feeling them.

Sometimes the child may submit samples. The most common tests are blood tests and urine tests, but sometimes samples from the poop are also needed.


It is most common that the stomach ache goes away on its own and that the child does not need care. However, if the child, for example, has severe fluid deficiency, the child may need to receive hospital care to get fluid and salts directly into the blood via drip. Sometimes the child also receives other treatment in hospitals.

If it is a stomach bacterium that has caused the infection, the child may need treatment with antibiotics, but this is unusual.

What happens in the body?

In case of a stomach illness, the cells in the intestinal mucosa are damaged by the virus, parasite or bacteria. The intestinal mucosa usually absorbs fluid, but when damaged, the intestine cannot absorb fluid as well. Instead, the body loses fluid through vomiting or diarrhea.

The body loses both fluid and salts when you have diarrhea. Children are much more susceptible to fluid loss than adults. The younger the child, the faster the child gets fluid deficiency.

Vomiting can cause the child to have difficulty keeping the fluid that they drink. A small child can quickly become worse if the child loses more fluid than they get themselves. High fever causes the child to lose even more fluid. It is therefore important to drink from the very beginning of the stomach infection.

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