Stomach Bugs-Why all the Poop? (PedPathForParents)

28 Jan

“His poop is so nasty and there’s so much.  I brought a diaper to show you.”

“Umm, no thanks, I’ll take your word for it; you can just throw it away, but not in my trash can.”

So, why is that poop so nasty?  Why do the kids throw up first?  Why does the poop last so long and when do I need to come in?

The most common symptoms of stomach bugs are…

  1. diarrhea (most books say normal or “foul-smelling”)
  2. vomiting
  3. fever
  4. anorexia (don’t want to eat)
  5. headache
  6. abdominal cramps
  7. myalgia (sore muscles)

In other words…your child feels like crap (pun intended).

My child just had this last month…Why do they keep getting this?

Among children under 5 years, children have somewhere between 1-5 episodes per year.  So recurrent episodes are the norm and not the exception.

How does my child get a stomach bug?

It starts when they eat poop…. In fancy terms it’s called fecal-oral transmission.  It goes like this: some dirty/nasty kid touches their own poop, then they touch something else in the room, then your child touches it and puts their hands in their mouth.  Before you get too upset at the dirty/nasty kid, remember that your kid gets to be that kid next….

Why so much diarrhea?  Why does it last so long?


This picture is a picture of the fingers that sit in the small intestine, ready to absorb food from your stomach.  The problem with stomach bugs is that the virus comes in and jacks up these things and causes them to push fluid into the intestine instead of absorbing fluids out…and this is why you find water in the diaper (…and on the floor, in the bed and everywhere else).

The good news is that this part just lasts a little while. The bad news is that on the 2nd-5th day after infection, these little fingers fuse together and make matters even worse.  It’s not until everything starts to heal on days 6-10 that you begin to see final improvement in the diarrhea (My apologies to those of you who found this post on day 2…).

How do I know this is something different or more than a stomach bug?

Here are some things to watch for that suggest things might be something other than a stomach bug and probably require a trip in to see me:

  1. Vomiting more than 24-48 hours (sooner if signs of dehydration-dry mouth, no tears, no urine)
  2. Diarrhea more than 1 week
  3. Blood or mucous in the stool

What do I do to help my child?

Keep your child hydrated. Use whatever fluids necessary at first and as vomiting improves move away from pedialyte/gatorade; the sugar will actually prolong the diarrhea.

I do not recommend treatment with anti-diarrheal medications.  They do not have studies in kids showing that they work. Additionally, they have been shown to prolong some types of diarrhea.

So, good luck with getting your child through his stomach bug. The most important take home point-Don’t bring me a diaper to see.


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