Viral gastroenteritis, or the tummy bug, is an acute intestinal infection contracted through contact with an infected person or by ingesting contaminated food or water. The symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting, and sometimes fever.
As a pediatrician, one of the most frequent after-hour calls I receive is from worried parents whose child has a tummy bug. This is also one of the most highly contagious illnesses and we often see transmission across multiple family members or close contacts.
In this post I want to share my tips for treatment and recovery and supplement that will help prevent other family members from contracting the tummy bug. I will also talk about how to assess dehydration and when it is necessary to seek medical care.
Small Frequent Fluids
The biggest concern with gastroenteritis is dehydration. One technique for good oral hydration at home is called “small frequent fluids”: you simply give one teaspoon (5 mL) of fluid every 10-15 minutes.
The reason why the amount of fluids suggested is so small is that it is difficult to vomit such a small amount back up, but it adds up quickly over a few hours. This technique has been used world-wide, especially in third world countries where they have decreased access to IV hydration.
What Fluids Should Your Child Be Consuming When They Have the Tummy Bug?
For mild dehydration, you can just use water. For something more severe, you will want to have a good balance of water, electrolytes (salts), and carbohydrates (sugars).
Coconut water is a great option since it is nicely balanced and typically does not worsen symptoms—not to mention, it is delicious!
If your child is still eating and getting carbohydrates through food, you can use just plain salt water for hydration. Take 1/8 of a tsp of high-quality salt, such as Himalayan or Celtic Sea Salt, and dissolve in 16 ounces of water.
When symptoms are more severe, you can use the commercially available rehydration solutions like Pedialyte or the organic version called Pediavance. These rehydration solutions maximize the absorption of fluids in the gut.
Maintaining a sugar to salt balance is very important. Beverages such as milk, sports drinks, and fruit juice can worsen diarrhea because they are relatively heavy in sugar, which pulls more fluid into our gut rather than keeping it into our bodies. This can also worsen dehydration over time.
Supplements for Treatment & Prevention
There are some incredible natural remedies that will treat the tummy bug and prevent others at home from contracting it.
I recommend using a yeast-based probiotic called Saccharomyces Boullardii. It has been studied extensively for traveler’s diarrhea, which is typically viral or bacterial as well. I recommend finding a brand that does not contain the pre-biotics FOS or MOS, which are food or starch for bacteria, because they can sometimes worsen diarrhea.
This should be given to both the individual with the tummy bug as well as to close contacts to prevent transmission.
The second product I recommend is serum bovine immunoglobins, which is a non-dairy form of antibodies. It is similar to colostrum, which is the early milk that humans receive from their mothers. It is known that infants who are breast fed tend to have less severe instances of gastroenteritis.
Serum bovine immunoglobins have been shown to decreases the severity of tummy bugs in those who are infected and to decrease your likelihood of contracting it when taken preventatively.
The homeopathic Nux Vomica can be a great remedy for acute nausea and vomiting. I’ve seen it provide quick relief for acute gastroenteritis. You can give three pellets every 30 minutes, or as needed, for nausea.
I’ve combined these supplements to create Dr. Roy’s Tummy Bug Treatment & Prevention Kit. My family always has these supplements on hand for when we need them— at home or when our family travels.
You can use this link below if you would like to purchase them through our online store. My age-appropriate dosing recommendations will be listed within each kit when you view the products or purchase them.
When Should You Seek Medical Care?
As I said already, the biggest concern with gastroenteritis is dehydration. I want to teach you how to assess dehydration at home.
- The first thing to do is to assess your child’s urine output. Infants urinate frequently: at least 4-5 times per day while older children urinate less frequently: about 2-3 times per day.
- Another good sign of hydration for babies is tear production. If they’re still crying and producing tears, then that’s a sign that they’re still hydrated.
- You can also check your baby’s mucus membranes by looking into their mouth for signs of dryness. If their tongue is dry, that’s a sign of relatively severe dehydration and you should seek medical attention at that point.
- Lastly, and most importantly, trust your gut! If you’re feeling unsafe or uncomfortable with your child at home, it’s always better to seek medical attention.