Stomach Flu and Influenza Are NOT the Same Thing

It seems like it’s always going around this time of year; the stomach flu.

Dr. Kevin Dahlman, the medical director for children’s health for Aurora Health Care, was a special live guest Thursday on the CBS 58 News at 4 to explain the difference.

He says part of the confusion is because the words stomach flu are used when he would prefer it be called a stomach virus.

The virus is called gastroenteritis and it has nothing to do with influenza, or the flu.

You can have influenza without having any stomach issues.

Gastroenteritis, or the stomach flu, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever and poor appetite.

It is actually an infection of the stomach and intestines.

Depending on the age and other health conditions a child may have, it can be very dangerous. Dehydration can be a real cause for concern. 

You can get your child vaccinated against rotavirus, which is the most common cause of gastroenteritis.

Other prevention tips are fairly obvious from making sure your child washes their hands often with warm water and soap to washing all fruits and vegetables before eating, and cooking meat all the way through.

These things can help prevent the bacterial form of gastroenteritis.

The most important thing is to keep your child hydrated.

You’ll need to replenish their electrolytes with an oral rehydration solution like Pedialyte, or even Gatorade for older children.

It’s best not to give children milk because that can make stomach pains worse.

It’s also important to re-introduce food slowly. You’ll want to use bland food like bread, crackers, bananas and rice.

Most of these cases go away on their own after a few days. But if the vomiting or diarrhea continues for several days, or if you notice signs of dehydration in your child, you should go to the doctor.

Signs of dehydration include:

Not urinating

Dry mouth

Crying with no tears

Fever over 102F

Lack of energy

Soft spot on the top of baby’s head is sunken

Blood in stool

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