Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lingering stomach symptoms after a viral infection

     We are winding down in the "stomach flu" season. There have been at least two viral illnesses (probably quite a few more!) this year, norovirus and rotavirus. They have very similar symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, possible fever) and it really is not possible to tell the difference between the two or other viruses that cause the gastrointestinal viruses. They generally run their course with help from rest, clear liquids, and a bland diet. The things that worry the pediatrician: dehydration, doubled-over abdominal pain not quickly relieved by vomiting or diarrhea, blood in the vomit or diarrhea, or a late fever. See our website for more information here.
     I want to review a common thing that happens after the viral illness starts to calm down. Your child is starting to feel better, act better, and wants to return to their normal diet. But many times, when you return to the normal diet, some cramping, vomiting, or diarrhea happen. The younger you are, the longer it takes to recover from these viral gastrointestinal illnesses. Many times when these symptoms come back, it is frustrating, but it is your body's way of saying it needs more time to recover. And the way to do that is to return to a bland diet and clear liquids. That means no dairy, no spicy foods, and no fried foods. That is not easy -- I know! But take the return of the symptoms as your body sending you a message.
     There are good studies that show rotavirus symptoms can linger with diarrhea in young infants for 4 weeks. And many other "stomach flu" viruses can cause lingering symptoms for 1-2 weeks after the viral infection has finished. Remember that we do not recommend any medication that says it is for vomiting, nausea, or diarrhea. We share your frustration with how these symptoms disrupt life, but the worry is that the medication is delaying how quickly your body is able to clear the viral infection out of its system.
     Certainly call our office during regular office hours if you have questions or concerns about these gastrointestinal symptoms. Children with dehydration or doubled-over pain need to be seen right away. We recommend the Nationwide Children's Hospital Emergency Department. More information about their services is available here. Warning: the link loads slowly.

1 comment:

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