Viral gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu, can affect children of all ages and is the leading cause of severe diarrhea. It's a common infection in preschoolers because it's so contagious. Eating contaminated food, sharing a cup with someone who has the virus or even chewing on a contaminated toy can infect your child. It's not nice to see your young child suffer, but stomach flu normally only lasts for a few days.
Spot the Signs
The most common symptoms of stomach flu are diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain. Some children may also have a fever. Diarrhea normally only lasts two to three days, but some children experience it for up to a week, says Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Nausea and vomiting should stop after a couple of days.
If your 4-year-old is displaying the symptoms of stomach flu, continue to give him liquids -- little and often is best. MedlinePlus recommends 2 to 4 ounces of fluid every 30 to 60 minutes. Stick to water or ice chips and stay away from juices, carbonated sodas and sports drinks as the sugar in these could make his diarrhea worse. MedlinePlus recommends electrolyte and fluid-replacement solutions or freezer pops for young children.
Replace Lost Nutrients
It's important to keep offering your child solid foods to replace the nutrients she's losing through diarrhea and vomiting. If she manages to go eight hours without vomiting, offer her bland foods such as saltine crackers, mashed potatoes, rice or bread, suggests KidsHealth. Her normal diet can be resumed gradually if she hasn't vomited for 24 hours, but don't give her milk products for another couple of days. Cincinnati Children's Hospital recommends cereals, lean meats, plain yogurt, bananas, vegetables and fresh apples.
When to Call the Doc
Call the doctor if your child has diarrhea for more than 7 to 10 days or if he displays signs of dehydration, advises Cincinnati Children's Hospital. If your child is dehydrated, he may have sunken eyes and very dry lips and mouth, be extremely thirsty, fussy and drowsy or fail to urinate for up to 12 hours. You may also notice blood in his diarrhea or vomit. After examining and weighing your child, the doctor may admit your child to hospital so that a medical professional can measure the amount of fluid going into and coming out of his body. In extreme cases, a child may require an IV to replace lost fluids through a vein.