Treatment & Care
How is gastroenteritis in children treated?
Most cases of gastroenteritis in children are mild and usually go away on their own within three to five days.
The main goal of treating gastroenteritis is to prevent dehydration. Your child can become dehydrated when fluids and electrolytes (salt and minerals) are lost through diarrhea or vomiting.
- To prevent dehydration, it’s important that your child your drinks plenty of fluids.
- If a child is very sick and starts vomiting, the doctor may recommend special drinks that contain carbohydrates and electrolytes (oral rehydration solutions). These drinks replace both the fluids and minerals that are lost with diarrhea without making the diarrhea worse.
It is important that your child try to eat as regularly as possible while he or she is sick.
- If you are breast feeding, continue to breast feed. If you are using formula, continue to give formula.
- If your child is able to eat solid foods without vomiting, he or she can return to his or her regular diet. It is best to start with small amounts of milk, yogurt, breads, cereals, fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid foods high in natural or added sugar because they can make diarrhea worse.
The following can help soothe the skin on your child's bottom if it has become red and sore from the diarrhea:
- Change your child’s diaper as soon as possible after each bowel movement.
- Wash your child's bottom after each bowel movement.
- Put on a layer of petroleum jelly or other ointment such as Desitin®, Balmex® or A&D®
- In some cases, including certain bacterial infections and parasitic infections, medications are used to treat the infection. Sometimes other medications are given to help with nausea, fever or other symptoms of gastroenteritis.
How can I prevent my child from getting gastroenteritis?
- Most viruses and bacteria are passed from person to person by unwashed hands. Washing your hands thoroughly after using the toilet is the best way to prevent germs that cause gastroenteritis and other illnesses.
- Because some animals carry germs that cause gastroenteritis, be sure to wash your hands very well after petting or handling animals.
- Always be sure that your food is washed and cooked properly to prevent contamination.
- When traveling in countries where parasitic infection and other kinds of gastroenteritis are common, talk to your doctor about the precautions you should take, such as boiling your drinking water or using bottled water. Sometimes vaccines and medications are recommended for travel; check with your doctor.
- A vaccine is available to prevent rotavirus infection in infants, and is part of the routine recommended vaccines for infants.