A fear of gastro is very real for parents. If one family member gets it, it’s almost inevitable that the rest will follow.
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Sarah Hunstead is a former paediatric nurse and the director of CPR Kids. She says everyone needs to know the signs, symptoms and treatments for common childhood illnesses like gastroenteritis, but most importantly, how long kids should stay home from school or daycare.
Listen to Sarah Hunstead on Feed Play Love:
What are the symptoms of gastroenteritis?
“It often starts with stomach cramps, so your child might be complaining of a sore tummy which is often followed by some lovely vomiting,” explains Sarah, adding, “And after that, we have the other end with the diarrhoea, which happens quite quickly.”
How quickly the symptoms present themselves will depend on what’s causing it.
“So usually with gastroenteritis, it’s a viral infection,” says Sarah. “It can be an onset of symptoms within hours of being exposed to the virus or it can be days later, but often it is that cramping. In kids, especially little ones, they’re not very good at associating that pain with a vomit.”
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How long do kids need to stay home for?
Sarah says children who have gastroenteritis need to stay home for a minimum of 24 hours after the last symptom occurs.
“We’re not talking the last vomit. We’re talking the last loose bowel motion,” Sarah clarifies.
“So 24 hours after the last loose spell motion. We need to make sure that they are symptom-free.”
When should I take my child to the doctor or hospital for gastro?
The most important thing to remember with gastro is to keep your child’s fluids up. But there are some things to watch out for that mean you should seek professional help from a doctor or hospital.
“Often there’s nothing that we can really do to prevent the progression of the illness,” says Sarah.
“What we want to do is make sure that they don’t become ‘dry’ … so if your child is not tolerating any fluids at all; if you notice some signs of dehydration, where you might notice that their mouth and lips are quite dry [or] they may be crying with no tears; in babies, you may notice that their fontanelle is sunken.
“If your child looks unwell, always seek medical help.”