Whole Food Matters

Treating Kids with Stomach Bugs

I have a vivid memory of being home sick as a child, back in the day when 7-Up and Ginger Ale were the panacea for all ills. I had strict instructions from my mother to take one teaspoon of 7-Up every half hour. I was thirsty, and the 7-Up wasn’t providing much hydration; the half hours became minutes, the teaspoons became tablespoons, soon I was drinking right out of the can…

Fast forward. I am home today with my youngest son who was sick with a stomach virus all night. As he feels better and I navigate the choices of what foods and fluids to introduce I’m reminded how confusing this process can be and how misinformed we have been by the “7-Up Cure.”

What to do for your child who is sick with a stomach flu or diarrhea?  The most important thing to keep in mind is to do nothing initially. The body is attempting to clear a pathogen from the body. The most we can do for our sick children is to make them comfortable enabling the body to do its job, be there when they need us and monitor for dehydration. Babies and young children who are still nursing can continue to nurse on command. Older children should refrain from all fluids and foods until the purging slows down. Introducing solids and liquids too soon can irritate and prolong the process. We have all experienced giving our child a seemingly harmless glass of water too soon only to regret it. My mother had the right idea by restricting the amount of fluid that was entering my body, but much to my children’s disappointment we now have many better choices than 7-Up.

Tips for Kids with Stomach and Intestinal “Bugs”

1. Do nothing initially. Help your child get comfortable. Add or remove blankets and clothing as needed. The most important thing you can do for your child is to monitor dehydration and offer fluids when the time is right.

2. Consider a homeopathic remedy if your child is in a lot of discomfort. (See my article Homeopathic Remedies for Common Ailments)

3. Once the initial purging subsides for at least three hours offer a few small ice chips. It is a very slow way of introducing fluids and is easier on the system than drinking water. If the ice chips are kept down for a half-hour you can offer some more. Limit the fluid intake to 1-3 teaspoons worth of ice chips at a time.

4. When it is clear that the ice chips are staying down you can let your child drink slowly small amounts of water (no more than 1/4 cup) for one to two hours.

5. It’s best to let the digestive system rest for as long as possible, but a child’s metabolism works so quickly you will soon be hearing requests for food. I prefer to start with electrolytes to help the body replace what is lost with the purging. Homemade chicken and bone broths are naturally high in electrolytes, as is unsweetened coconut water and miso soup broth. I would avoid Gatorade and other products that are full of corn syrup and sugar. Even Pedialyte should be considered with caution, some of their products are sweetened with Aspartame to which many people are sensitive, and most of their products contain artificial colors and flavors. There is a similar natural product called “Recharge” which is a better choice. If you don’t have any of the above in your home and your child refuses water you may dilute a small amount of fruit juice (1 part juice to 15 parts water) avoiding citrus juices due to their acid content.

When your child seems ready to eat I usually follow the B.R.A.T. diet: banana, (white) rice, applesauce, (dry) toast. These foods are “binding” – and as a result are the very foods to avoid when your child is constipated. I recommend starting with half a piece of toast or a few spoonfuls of rice to avoid the acidity of the applesauce and banana in an already sensitive stomach.

6. As soon as your child is keeping down water consistently introduce a probiotic to restore the bowel flora. It’s easy to stir some powder into applesauce, white rice or water.  Mercola recommends taking a dose every 30-60 minutes until symptoms resolve. It may mean going through an entire bottle in 24 hours and that is ok!

7. Let your child rest as much as possible. With sleep comes regeneration.

For more information about homeopathic remedies at home consult my favorite user-friendly homeopathy books: Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicine by Cummings and Ullman and Homeopathic Medicine at Home by Panos.


1 Sarah Pagliasotti Newman { 03.10.11 at 1:19 PM }

Thanks so much for this. We rely too heavily on gingerale and Pedialyte – great to hear about healthier alternatives. And also great to have a timeline for re-introducing liquids and foods – it’s a delicate thing to navigate – so having a plan like this helps!

2 admin { 03.14.11 at 9:07 AM }

Thanks for this Sarah. I must say I peeked at your blog, enjoyed your writing and LOVED your country song!! Perhaps I can get my budding guitar-playing daughter to put it to music!

3 April Gunther { 03.14.11 at 2:53 PM }

Wise, caring advice Krista! Sorry to hear Xander isn’t feeling well! Give him a gentle hug from his “Alaska Auntie.” xoxo

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