KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — When kids begin complaining of an upset stomach, it often signals the dreaded stomach bug. It can make children miserable and spread through schools quickly.

As parents, it can be tough to know the best way to treat kids at home when it hits. Dr. Erica Brown from East Tennessee Children’s Hospital shares some tips for helping children.

Many people call it the stomach flu, but what is it actually? According to Brown, most of the time it is caused by viral gastroenteritis, an infection that causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines, caused by a virus. Diarrhea and vomiting are the main symptoms and the key concern, especially for kids, is dehydration.

It can spread by sharing food, water and utensils. Brown said children get it more often because they are not as good at thorough and regular handwashing. Soap, water and diluted bleach solutions are the best disinfectants for schools and homes where kids have had the stomach bug.

Brown shares that if children feel like eating, let them.

In most cases, they won’t and the key is clear liquids to prevent dehydration. Young children are especially susceptible to dehydration because they are less efficient at conserving water than older children and adults. Water is always good and should be given in small frequent amounts.

You can also use a commercial rehydration solution like Pedialyte, which also comes in popsicle form according to Brown. Sports drinks should be avoided because they often contain a lot of sugar which can make diarrhea worse.

When to seek medical attention?

  • If a child is vomiting more than 24 hours.
    • Your pediatrician can give medicine to lessen vomiting.
  • If a child is not able to keep down even the smallest amounts of liquid.
    • IV liquids may be necessary.
  • Signs of dehydration:
    • parched, dry mouth
    • sunken eyes
    • fewer tears when crying
    • less than two wet diapers a day or an older child who is not urinating