So to celebrate saying farewell to our home’s stomach bug (for now), I’ve compiled info for the best remedies to help your household fight this winter nuisance.
When the symptoms arrive…
Please note: I am not a medical doctor nor any of this information should replace advice from your doctor. If you are concerned that either you or your child is at risk from dehydration, seek medical attention immediately. See a certified medical professional for individual diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
What dehydration looks like adults (minor to severe signs/symptoms):
- Increased thirst
- Dry mouth
- Weakness, dizziness
- Concentrated urine (deep yellow) and decreased output (peeing less)
- Heart palpitations (pounding heart)
- Confusion, sluggishness, fainting
- Inability to sweat
- Check out this link to see when to seek medical care.
Check for these signs/symptoms of dehydration in kids:
- Passing little urine
- Fewer tears when crying
- Sunken eyes
- Weakness, lethargy (lacking energy)
- Call doctor if: Dry diapers x 8 hours, dry tongue/lips, sunken soft spot on head (infants), and crying with no tears (Source). Also seek medical advice if child is under 3 months old, has medical condition, has a high fever, has blood in diarrhea/vomit, or symptoms are not improving (Source 1, 2).
With any of these severe dehydration symptoms in children, call 911 immediately:
- Drowsiness, pale skin, cold hands or feet, fast breathing, confusion, extreme lethargy
1. Stay hydrated drinking the right stuff.
What to drink (for adults):
- Clear fluids: Water, broth (chicken or vegetable), diluted grape or apple juice (low acid), fruit-flavoured popsicles (without pulp), flat ginger ale, coconut water.
- Sport drinks: These provide electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium) and glucose (sugar) for energy. With the first signs of the stomach bug, I have my husband go to the store and get some STAT.
- Caffeine-free tea: Peppermint tea calms the stomach while ginger tea helps with nausea (common remedy for pregnancy-induced nausea/vomiting).
- Avoid: Caffeinated beverages (coffee, black tea), chocolate, alcohol
What to drink (infants & young children):
- Breast-milk or infant formula: Encourage feeding schedule as close to normal as possible. For bottle-fed babies, do not dilute the infant formula. If your baby is breastfeed, allow him or her to nurse more often. Your child’s paediatrician may recommend an oral electrolyte maintenance solution (e.g. Pedialyte) in addition to regular feedings. Be sure to check with your doctor first regarding the amount and frequency.
- Toddlers & young children:
- Oral electrolyte maintenance solution: Provides sodium, potassium, zinc, and chloride as well as glucose to prevent dehydration. Give about 1 tablespoon every 10-15 minutes, increasing frequency as tolerated. If your kiddo has the tendency to gulp fluids, try giving the solution by the spoonful or syringe, pouring small amount into a cup, or making homemade popsicles. Kids with ongoing diarrhea should replace electrolytes with additional doses of the solution.
- Clear fluids: Water or broth may also be given if the child does not want to drink the oral electrolyte solution, however, these will not have all the necessary electrolytes like the oral electrolyte solution.
- Avoid: Fruit juices or carbonated drinks—these can make diarrhea worse.
2. Nourish eating the right stuff.
The BRAT Diet?
In the past, the stomach bug go-to diet has been the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast) as it’s easy to digest, full of carbohydrates for energy, and replenishes select nutrients lost through diarrhea and vomiting. However, the BRAT diet is low in fat, protein and many micronutrients (i.e. vitamin A, B12, and calcium) and is too restrictive for children, unless the foods are part of the child’s regular diet according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Therefore, children should return to a regular diet as tolerated as soon as they are rehydrated to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Adults may benefit from adding these foods to their diet as they transition into a regular diet.
- Bananas: This fruit is packed with potassium, which helps replenish the potassium lost through diarrhea. It’s also has soluble fibre which absorbs excess fluid in the bowel and firms up loose stools. Other potassium-packed, bland foods to try are potatoes (without skin) or melons which provide similar benefits.
- White Rice & White Toast: These make the list of well-tolerated foods on the BRAT diet as they are low in insoluble fibre and are easy to digest. This includes foods like white crackers, plain Cheerios, or cream of wheat. Once you’re starting to feel better, you can return to the usually recommended whole-grain products as they provide more fibre, vitamins and minerals than their processed counterparts.
- Applesauce: This BRAT food contains pectin, another soluble fibre, that improves the consistency of diarrhea towards more formed stools.
Other foods to try when returning to regular diet:
Proteins: Eggs and silken tofu are full of protein and seem to be well-tolerated post stomach bug. Just avoid cooking them in a lot of butter or oil as high fat foods can irritate the stomach. Other proteins to try are poultry, fish, pork, or smooth nut butters (if tolerated).
Soups: The cooked vegetables in chicken noodle soup or puréed soups may be easier to tolerate than their raw counterparts. Just avoid adding extra black pepper to the soups.
Probiotics: Some studies (1, 2) have found that the addition of select probiotics, like L. casei found in some yogurts and the supplemental yeast S. boulardii, shorten symptoms of diarrhea by restoring the normal microbiota in the colon. Talk with your doctor first before you or your child start any supplement.
Foods to avoid:
- Some dairy products: Many people find dairy milk hard to digest after the stomach flu, so gradually add small amounts of low-fat or lactose-free products to the diet as tolerated.
- High fibre foods: Whole nuts and seeds (smooth nut or seed butters may be easier to tolerate), lentils, beans and corn, raw vegetables, prunes or prune juice
- High fat, greasy foods: Foods like fried meat or fish, sausage, bacon
- Spicy foods: Avoid adding chilli sauces, pepper, and curries to foods while recovering.
- Others: High added sugar foods or foods with sugar alcohols (such as xylitol and sorbitol) may prolong diarrhea symptoms.