Story by: Kim Huston on January 19, 2021
Flu is a word that is commonly used for influenza, an illness caused by a virus that causes symptoms in the nose, throat and lungs. Gastroenteritis, often called the “stomach flu,” is not the same virus that causes influenza. Learn the symptoms of both conditions to get your child the care they need.
Gastroenteritis, often called stomach flu, can be caused by different viruses, including norovirus. Norovirus is one of the most common viruses to cause gastroenteritis. Norovirus is not the same as the flu virus that causes influenza. Norovirus symptoms can include:
In children, nausea, vomiting and stomach pain are more common symptoms of gastroenteritis than influenza. However, those symptoms, including diarrhea, may appear in children with influenza, but not as often. The important thing to know is that if your child is experiencing vomiting and diarrhea but doesn’t have unrelenting fever, cough with body aches or other influenza symptoms, your child may have another virus, not influenza.
Children usually develop gastroenteritis or norovirus symptoms 12 to 48 hours after exposure. Children usually experience gastroenteritis symptoms for one to four days. The only treatment for stomach bugs is supportive care, including drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, getting extra rest and eating a diet that is easy on the stomach. Avoiding caffeinated drinks, dairy and sugary drinks may help if your child experiences diarrhea and vomiting.
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Children with influenza, often called the flu, tend to have more upper respiratory symptoms that usually appear out of nowhere. In the first few days of being sick with the flu, a child’s symptoms are usually more intense. Flu symptoms in children can include:
Flu symptoms in children can be treated with antiviral medication. If you think your child may have been exposed to the flu and/or develops a fever of 102 degrees for more than 24 hours, call your child’s pediatrician office to seek evaluation. Antivirals must be prescribed within 48 to 72 hours to be effective. This can help lessen the severity of the symptoms. The flu can be very serious in children — if your child has the flu and their symptoms worsen, it may warrant immediate medical care. Some of those symptoms include: