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Childhood Illnesses-TNL Guide to Stomach Flu

What is it?

Gastroenteritis (or stomach flu) is incredibly common, particularly with young children and is better known as a ‘tummy bug’. It is a viral or bacterial infection that causes vomiting and diarrhoea. It creates inflammation of the stomach and intestinal tract and can be brought on by parasites, viruses and bacteria. Gastroenteritis is transmitted by the passing of contaminated particles through the mouth; for example, by being in close contact with someone who has gastroenteritis, touching tainted surfaces or breathing in particles when cleaning up infected vomit or faeces.

Most cases in children are referred to as rotavirus, while in adults is it known as norovirus. It can affect children and adults differently, but most symptoms will be similar; for example, children may become more fatigued than an adult would be. While it is a very unpleasant condition for anyone to contract, it will usually disappear within a week without any treatment from a doctor.

Gastroenteritis | NHS inform

Photographer: Vitolda Klein | Source: Unsplash

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms for Gastroenteritis include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • watery vomit or faeces
  • nausea
  • dehydration
  • stomach cramps
  • body aches
  • fever
  • loss of appetite

Gastroenteritis can be diagnosed based on symptoms but can also be detected through a physical exam or stool sample, if necessary.

Photographer: Kelly Sikkema | Source: Unsplash

What is the Treatment?

The best treatment is prevention. Washing hands regularly, especially before preparing food, and being generally hygienic are good practice regardless, as is maintaining good food hygiene, monitoring expiration dates and keeping kitchens clean. Regularly disinfecting surfaces and items, including bedding, drinks bottles and toys handled by children, will also reduce transmission.

It is essential that, as soon as a child is expected to have contracted gastroenteritis, they are sent home and remain away from their setting until 48 hours after symptoms have disappeared and they feel well enough to attend. Other parents should also be informed if gastroenteritis is present in the setting so they can look out for symptoms.

There is no ultimate treatment for gastroenteritis; staying hydrated, replacing lost fluids, getting rest and eating plain foods is recommended but there is usually no medicine to be administered. Paracetamol can be used to ease aches and pains and reduce fevers.

If practitioners and parents are unsure, advice from a doctor should be sought. Professional guidance should be gained if:

  • fevers increase and remain high.
  • severe dehydration is present.
  • there is blood in any vomit or faeces.
Photographer: Kristine Wook | Source: Unsplash

If a child has contracted gastroenteritis, the best ways to treat them are:

  • Wearing PPE when cleaning up any vomit or bodily fluids, disposing of it correctly.
  • Keeping them at home. All following treatments should be done at home as they should not be in their setting.
  • Monitoring their temperature.
  • Keeping them hydrated, drinking plenty of water rather than juice.
  • Letting them rest.
  • Encouraging them to eat small amounts of plain food, if they are hungry.
  • Giving them paracetamol to bring down temperatures and ease discomfort if needed. Labels should always be read to ensure age-appropriate dosage is given. Parental permission must be acquired before giving ANY medication to children. It is recommended that first aiders administer medications
  • Consulting pharmacists or doctors for further advice and information on suitable treatments, such as rehydration sachets.
  • Making an appointment with a GP if the symptoms do not improve or disappear after a suitable length of time. The suggested time frame is 1 week, but personal judgement should always be used. If symptoms worsen within this time frame, such as consistently high temperatures, severe dehydration or laboured breathing, seek advice from a medical professional by calling 111 or 999 immediately.
Photographer: Austin Distel | Source: Unsplash

Fun Facts

(courtesy of GoHealth Urgent Care)

Gastroenteritis is commonly referred to as ‘stomach flu’. However, it is not caused or linked to influenza at all. The influenza virus can cause similar symptoms to gastroenteritis, such as vomiting, but is caused by different viruses, such a norovirus.

Gastroenteritis is incredibly contagious and, around the world, affects approximately 600 million people annually.

One of the most serious side effects from gastroenteritis is dehydration. While there is no medical cure for the condition, some people with severe symptoms can benefit from such medical treatments as IV drips to replace lost fluids.

Good hygiene, such as frequent hand washing, is the most effective way to avoid catching the illness as it is highly preventable. If someone in a household contracts gastroenteritis it can quickly spread to others, so maintaining a clean environment will help reduce transmission.

Photographer: JESHOOTS.COM | Source: Unsplash