Viruses love this time of year. School is back in session, the temperatures are cooling down, and kids are spending a lot more time indoors. The new season and new routines set the perfect stage for sick germs to come out of habitation and make their presence known! From stomach bugs, to the flu and colds, our kids are exposed to many different germs that, unfortunately, even a lot of hand washing can’t control.

What Is the Stomach “Flu”?

The stomach “flu”, not to be confused by the influenza virus, is a highly infectious viral form of gastroenteritis. The group of viruses that cause gastroenteritis is referred to as Noroviruses. People affected with this experience vomiting and/or diarrhea as well as a low-grade fever, muscle aches and fatigue for approximately 24 – 72 hours. To learn more about Norovirus, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada.

What is Influenza?

The influenza virus (or “The Flu”) is a respiratory illness found in the nose and throat that often affects people between the months of November and April. Typical influenza symptoms include sudden fever, headache, chills, dry cough, sore throat and extreme fatigue.  Influenza can be prevented through annual immunization. For more information about the influenza vaccine and other ways to prevent the spread of influenza, visit the Canadian Paediatrics Society Caring for Kids website.

It can be a wretched experience when your child comes home with a stomach bug, nasty cold or the flu! Here are some tips to handle your child’s illness:

Provide plenty of fluids – Fluids help loosen mucus and prevent dehydration. Dehydration can happen if your child is losing a lot of fluids due to vomiting or diarrhea, and those fluids aren’t being replaced. Symptoms of dehydration in young children include dry mouth, dizziness, a decrease in urination and no tears (when they cry).  If you believe your child is dehydrated, contact their health care provider as soon as possible. For rehydration tips, please visit the Canadian Paediatrics Society.

Offer Food With Caution – If your child has a stomach bug, wait at least six hours after she last vomited to offer her any substantial food such as a sandwich. If she is hungry introduce bland foods such as saltine crackers or warm liquids such as soups.

Be Cautious When Using Medicine – When your little one is vomiting and/or appears very uncomfortable, it might be tempting to use whatever over-the-counter medicine you can find to help her feel better. Don’t. Use all medicine with caution and read all labels. Many medications like Imodium or Pepto-Bismol are approved for children ages six and over only. For pain and fever relief, use a children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen to bring down a fever and help ease discomfort. When in doubt about medication for kids speak to your local pharmacist, visit your family doctor and/or call your provincial/territorial telehealth lines.

Keep Moisture in the Air – Keep a running humidifier in your child’s bedroom to help alleviate discomfort from a dry nose and/or lungs.

Call the Doctor – Call the doctor if your child shows signs of severe discomfort, has a high fever (103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) or is acting extremely fatigued. Some specific signs you should call the doctor or visit the hospital when your child is ill with a virus include:

•             Rapid or laboured breathing.

•             Blue lips.

•             Severe vomiting (vomiting for over four hours).

•             Not better after five days, and still has a fever.

For more information about when to take your child to the doctor or emergency room, visit the Canadian Paediatrics Society Caring for Kids website.

It’s inevitable, kids do get sick. And when they get sick, it’s terrible. When your child comes home with a nasty bug, keep her as comfortable as possible, call the doctor if needed, and know that “this too shall pass!”