Tips for easing your child's upset stomach

Learn about common stomach ailments and what to do about them.

By Dr. Marla Shapiro

How to ease your child's upset stomach

Dealing with your child's upset stomach can sometimes be a frustrating experience. How do you know if it's a case of too much candy, the flu or something more serious?

Dr. Marvin Gans, pediatrician for The Hospital for Sick Children, visited with Balance Television host Dr. Marla Shapiro to talk about some common stomach ailments, and what to do about them.

Diarrhea

Frequently, viral gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) starts with vomiting, Gans said. That's where parents should start.

When a child is vomiting, he said, the most important thing is to give your child sips of clear fluids. "You must only limit the child to one ounce and wait an hour, than another ounce," Gans explained. Using a tablespoon or teaspoon is an effective way of doing this.

And, he said people should be using Pedialyte (or Gastrolyte), not water or homemade sugar solutions. Why you ask? The answer is that these drinks have electrolytes, Gans said.

"When you vomit, you lose sodium and potassium and some of the other electrolytes," he said. "That's not replaced if you just give water."

Dehydration
The secret to dehydration is knowing what your child is like. If they're older, you can weigh them, Gans said, just like doctors and hospitals do. "We weight them and make sure they're not losing weight."

If you're home with an infant and you can't weigh them, he said, it's important to ensure that the mucous membrane is moist, the mouth and tongue are moist, that when they cry there are tears in their eyes and that they urinate often.

It's important to try and prevent dehydration in the first place by watching for those telltale signs.

Diet
Gans recommends stopping dairy consumption by your child as soon as they're stomach gets upset, and not bringing it back until the diarrhea resolves. So no milk, except breast milk, he said.

Another drink children with diarrhea should not be given is apple juice because it has a high sugar load that will perpetuate the diarrhea.

Once they can keep food down, baby foods such as peas and peaches are fine for little babies. If they're older, Gans starts them off with foods such as toast, crackers, soup, rice and pasta.

Constipation
The definition of constipation, Gans explained is hard stools. Kids must have stools that are soft and pain-free, he said. It's not about frequency.

You'll need to get things that are high if roughage, fibre and bran into your child. But getting your child to eat bran can be tough. Gans suggests making bran muffins with your kids so they're part of the solution. He also advises putting chocolate chips in the muffins because kids will be more likely to eat them.

For an older child who won't eat prunes, prune juice or bran, try popcorn. It's a good source of roughage and fibre.

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