January 1, 2012 Saint Peter's Healthcare System Community Calendar Featured Article.
No matter what your age, just the thought of experiencing the stomach ﬂu can make you queasy. The vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains, cramps and even the fever that accompany the stomach ﬂu can wear anyone down, but young children are the most vulnerable.
Elizabeth R Henry, M.D.
So ’tis the season to be wary—of the
stomach viruses and bacteria that
may be lurking in your kids’ schools,
day care centers and wherever they go.
Lumped together under the umbrella
term gastroenteritis, these stomach
bugs account for about 1.5 million
doctor visits in the U.S. each year.
Roughly 200,000 children need
hospitalization, usually for dehydra-
tion caused by excessive vomiting or
diarrhea, and about 300 deaths a year
are attributed to the illness.
The stomach ﬂu, which usually lasts
about ﬁve days, is caused by many
viruses or bacteria.
The most common
winter culprit for
children is the
Elizabeth R. Henry,
M.D., a pediatrician
afﬁliated with The
at Saint Peter’s
and a partner with the New Brunswick
Pediatric Group. “Like the inﬂuenza
virus, this one thrives in cold, dry
winter climates,” Dr. Henry says.
“Although any age group, even adults,
can get the rotavirus, the younger
and smaller you are, the more prone
you are to serious dehydration.”
When your child comes down with the
bug, go see your child’s doctor. “Many
things can cause these symptoms,
so other possible causes such as
food poisoning need to be ruled out,”
according to Dr. Henry.
When symptoms begin, it is critical to
start rehydrating your child as soon as
possible. “Use products like Pedialyte
for small children and Gatorade for
older kids, as opposed to fruit juice,
because they contain electrolytes like
sodium and potassium,” she notes. If
kids immediately throw up liquids, try
reducing the amount given to just a few
ounces, but give it as often as they can
The most serious consequence of
stomach ﬂu is dehydration, says
Warning signs of dehydration include:
“If you see any of these signs, consult
your pediatrician,” says Dr. Henry. “ Your
child may need an ofﬁce evaluation or
need to be sent to the hospital for
Preventing stomach ﬂu is difﬁcult.
According to Dr. Henry there is an
oral vaccine, but there is only a small
window for administering this vaccine —
between ages 2 months and 8 months.
The vaccine is not effective in older
children, and it does not offer lifetime
immunity to infants. But it does protect
those in whom rotavirus can cause
Good hygiene is the only other
preventive measure. As with other
illnesses, hand washing is critical.
“Hand washing has an impact on all
infectious diseases,” says Dr. Henry.
“Ask your child’s caretakers to wash
often, and try to keep your kid’s hands
clean at home and in school.”
To ﬁnd a pediatrician, visit
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