Diarrhea From a Stomach Virus
Diarrhea may follow vomiting or appear on its own. It can vary from a few loose stools to very watery stools.
< 6 Months
Diarrhea is hard to define here, since young infants can normally have up to ten very runny poops per day. A greater frequency than that could represent diarrhea, especially if the constituency is very runny. Since the very young are at greater risk of dehydration, offer small amounts of breast milk or formula, and call your doctor for advice.
Diarrhea following a stomach virus is messy but usually not serious, though you may be surprised by how long the loose stools persist. Diaper rash is the most common inconvenience. Compared to vomiting, diarrhea rarely causes worrisome dehydration, but there's still a risk.
When to Worry
- If there's blood or mucus in the diarrhea
- If the diarrhea is extremely frequent (more than eight times daily)
- If there are signs of dehydration [See:Above]
- If there is a persistent high fever (over 102*F)
Any of these symptoms could indicate a more virulent bacterial infection or viral strain, which would require medical attention.
When Not to Worry
When the diarrhea lasts. This is more the rule than the exception. It can take up to a month after a stomach virus for the stools to return to a normal consistency. This does not mean that the virus is still present; rather, it takes time for the intestine to heal and be able to reabsorb water. Stool analysis or cultures have no benefits, since the infection is gone. Just have patience.
What to Do
- Feed Jimmy whatever you would normally, but skip the citrus and acidic vegetables like tomatoes. High-bulk diets have no real value, and since it's going to last for a while, you might as well be feeding him real foods.
- Prevent outbreaks of diaper rash with naked time when practical, and take the other preventive measures like applying cream.
For a few days after the vomiting or diarrhea, Jimmy's appetite will, usually decrease, and you may even see some of his ribs showing. It could be a while before he goes back to eating with his old enthusiasm and regains the weight he's just lost. If you pressure him to eat, you could end up with a picky eater or a child who overindulges in sweets and starches. If you don't, I promise you that this low-appetite phase will be followed by a period When he'll be voracious, wolfing down everything you put in front of him and calling for more. At that point, you'll see the spaces between his ribs fill in.
- Excerpted from The New Basics by Michel Cohen, M.D. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022