Coping With Sick Kids Under 5 — Stomach Flu (Gastroenteritis)

IN THIS series of 5 articles, we explore the 5 most common illnesses among children below 5.

Stomach Flu (Gastroenteritis)

This week’s article gives us more information on Stomach Flu.

Stomach Flu sometimes tends to be confused with food poisoning, but though they may have similar symptoms, it is important to understand the difference between the two.

Stomach flu or Gastroenteritis refers to an infection in the gut, causing inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It is commonly caused by a virus and is spread through contaminated food, poor hand hygiene or close contact with someone having the illness. As such, it can spread rapidly in a childcare setting.

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Signs And Symptoms

  • Vomiting for about 6 to 24 hours
  • Loose or watery stools for 2 to 4 days (Occasionally, the diarrhoea may go on for 10 to 14 days.)
  • Fever, tummy ache and loss of appetite.

Infection by a virus is usually mild and does not last longer than 1 week.

What Should You Do?

Parents and caregivers can take the following steps to help in the child’s recovery:

  • Rehydrate the child with small frequent sips of oral rehydration solution;
  • Give medicine to relieve the child’s fever (This may help the child to feel more comfortable and thus sleep and eat better.);
  • Provide probiotics to shorten the duration of diarrhoea (Avoid medicines that stop the diarrhoea like charcoal, Lomotil or kaolin.).

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Goldbell Group

Vomiting and diarrhoea are the body’s way of getting rid of an infection or telling us that something is wrong. Nursing mothers can continue to breastfeed their child. It is not necessary to change the baby’s milk formula in the first few days of diarrhoea.

Previous Article About Coping With Sick Kids Under 5

The Common Cold

PrintThe Healthy Way is a regular health series developed for STORM.SG by Healthway Medical. If you have specific queries, please do email us at and we will ask the panel of experts for their advice. Do note that only selected queries will be addressed.


stomach flu

How To Prevent The Stomach Flu

Teach your child to:

  • Wash hands before eating;
  • Avoid putting hands or toys into the mouth;
  • Not to share utensils with others.

Caregivers and parents can:

  • Ensure proper sterilisation of milk bottle and teat for infant;
  • Practice proper hygiene when mother is breastfeeding;
  • Wash hands thoroughly in between, if taking care of more than one baby.

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When To Seek Medical Attention

See a doctor if the sick child has any of the following warning signs:

  • Not willing to drink or unable to keep any fluid down;
  • Vomiting often for more than 4 to 6 hours;
  • Appears lethargic;
  • Having tummy ache that is severe and does not stop, typically accompanied by persistent crying;
  • Changing less than 4 wet (with urine) diapers in 1 day;
  • Throwing out green vomitus;
  • Having blood in the vomitus or diarrhoea.

A Final Note from the Doctor

“Parents should note that antibiotics are prescribed only for the treatment of bacterial infections and not viral infections. Gastroenteritis is caused by viral infections and thus antibiotics will not help in its treatment.

“As this illness is contagious, it is advisable to identify it early, seek medical attention and take precautions to prevent it from spreading,” says Dr Wong.


Images: Shutterstock

Dr Wong Chin KhoonDr Wong Chin Khoon is a Paediatrician at SBCC Baby & Child Clinic, a member of Healthway Medical Group. He is also the Medical Director of the Paediatric Group of the Specialist Division of Healthway Medical Group. 

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