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Doc Talk | How to treat and recognize the stomach bug

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School is back in session and that means germs are spreading between kids. It's a time of the year when many parents are thinking about viral infections.

One of the most common infections is the stomach bug.

It's often referred to as the stomach flu but the truth is, it's not really the flu. It's a virus and once you get it, you mostly have to ride it out.

But there are a number of ways you can identify it.

When it comes to stomach problems the symptoms are all pretty much the same: dehydration, diarrhea, vomiting.

So how do you know when you have food poisoning or the stomach bug?

"The exposure can be fairly sudden but a tummy bug might last anywhere from 3-7 days, whereas food poisoning, you're pretty much over the illness in about 12 hours," explained Dr. Jennifer Still, a Holy Spirit Pediatrician.

So sign number one is symptoms last longer. Dr. Still says the bug may also take a while to first appear.

"For viral infections, you can become symptomatic anywhere from 12 hours to 5 days after an exposure."

Symptoms associated with the stomach may also include a fever, headaches or muscle aches and cramps. But because the bug is really a virus, antibiotics won't help.

All you can really do is rest and rehydrate.

"Older kids and adults can certainly drink sports drinks like Gatorade," said Dr. Still. "But for a baby or a young child, we prefer to use oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte."

That's because Pedialyte has a different balance of salt and sugars than sports drinks. To determine whether a child or baby is dehydrated Dr. Still says pay attention to how frequently, or infrequently, they're going to the bathroom.

Their moths may be dry or tacky and they child may cry but not be able to produce good tears.

No matter what, the stomach bug is easy to spread so there's always one thing you can do, "washing your hands with warm soap and water."

Dr. Still says after a few days the bug should go away but if vomiting lasts more than three days or diarrhea more than a week, call the doctor. And also call the doctor if blood appears in either.

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