Gastroenteritis in Children: All You Need to Know

Gastroenteritis in Children: All You Need to Know

Last update: 01 July, 2018

In this article, we’ll share some important facts that every parent should know about gastroenteritis in children.

Gastrointestinal inflammation can also occur in the youngest members of the family. Its symptoms can sometimes be confused with simple stomach pain.

However, if the child’s symptoms are accompanied by certain signs and if they last for a prolonged period of time, the child may be suffering from gastroenteritis.

Gastroenteritis is also known as the intestinal flu, it’s becoming more common in both young people and adults. It’s characterized by the presence of cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. This ailment can be a little easier to handle when it comes to children, however it also requires immediate care.

Common symptoms

The clinical manifestations of gastroenteritis are characterized by large amounts of diarrhea. Stomach pain and vomiting are also common symptoms of this ailment. Although vomiting is a common symptom, it doesn’t appear in all children.

Nausea and fever complete the symptomatology of gastroenteritis. Children who are suffering from gastroenteritis may also present skin irritation around the anus. Keep in mind that children may react to this ailment in different ways.

Sometimes the condition disappears on its own. However, parents should observe their children in order to prevent complications such as elevated fever and dehydration. These complications can have a serious impact on a child’s health.

Gastroenteritis in Children: All You Need to Know


Gastrointestinal inflammation can have many different causes. If the child has abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting, it could be due to a virus. However, there are more probable causes.

Childhood gastroenteritis can be caused by the invasion of viruses such as rotavirus and adenovirus. However, bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter can cause the symptoms mentioned above.

In addition, this condition can also be caused by diet, inflammatory diseases and other medical conditions. Causes that are less likely in children include: ulcerative colitis, hyperthyroidism and Crohn’s disease.

Types of gastroenteritis in children

Parents can follow clues about this condition through observing the child’s diarrhea. For example, if the ailment is caused by bacteria found in food that has gone bad, the child’s diarrhea would be liquid, representing an important loss of liquids for the child. The child may also have to go to the bathroom frequently.

On the other hand, when it comes to gastroenteritis caused by salmonella, their diarrhea is usually a little more solid and accompanied by mucus. The child may feel sick and have a fever.

Measures to take

If a child is vomiting, it’s best to wait for a least 60 to 90 minutes before feeding or giving them any liquids. This will prevent the intestine from becoming more irritated. Parents can take this measure as long as the child isn’t dehydrated.

There are medications and foods that are ideal for re-hydrating children. Rehydration salts can be given orally or applied intravenously.

If the little one has diarrhea for more than 3 days, you should consult your doctor immediately. The same should happen if the child suffers from dehydration or if they present uncontrollable fevers.

How to know if your child is dehydrated

The amount of liquid expelled as well as the amount of time that the little one goes without eating gives us clues about the intensity of their dehydration. However, their bodies can also give clear signals.

Gastroenteritis in Children: All You Need to Know

The most obvious signs of dehydration are dry mouth and lips, decay, pale or whitish skin, dark circles around the eyes and little urine output. If you notice any of these signs, provide water for the child. While a child is suffering from gastroenteritis they should avoid citric juices.

Take care of their diet during and after the ailment

An important aspect to keep in mind during and after gastroenteritis is the child’s nutrition. Fats, fried foods and dairy products should be eliminated while the child is experiencing symptoms and for a couple of days after the symptoms stop.

Lactic products and sweets aren’t recommended since they can cause intestinal irritation. Gastroenteritis in children can usually be handled with a healthy diet.

Rice water can be used and it can provide incredible results. When the child’s affection is cured, you’ll notice that their appetite will increase immediately.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Mosqueda R, Rojo, P. Gastroenteritis aguda. Protocolos diagnóstico-terapéuticos de Urgencias Pediátricas SEUP-AEP. 97-102. [En línea].
  • Lucero, Y. Etiología y manejo de la gastoenteritis aguda infecciosa en niños y adultos. Rev. Med. Clin. CONDES – 2014; 25(3) 463-472.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.