Stomach Virus in Infants: What Every Parent Needs to Know

It’s no surprise that infants are delicate beings. The most minor thing can disrupt their world; few things are as disruptive as a stomach virus in infants. Knowing how to identify, treat, and prevent a stomach virus in your infant can be crucial for new parents.

So, let’s dive into stomach viruses in infants and arm ourselves with knowledge on how to deal with this newborn stomach bug in infants.

What is a Stomach Virus?

A stomach virus, commonly called the “stomach flu,” is an infection that affects the digestive system. These infections can be particularly uncomfortable for infants.

Types of Stomach Virus in Infants

Regarding stomach issues in infants, it’s not always a one-virus-fits-all situation. Several types of viruses could be responsible for upsetting your baby’s tummy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), rotavirus alone is responsible for approximately 128,500 yearly deaths of children under five globally.

Common Types of Stomach Viruses:

  1. Rotavirus: This virus is a leading cause of severe diarrhoea and vomiting in children, especially those under five.
  2. Adenovirus: Usually milder than rotavirus, adenovirus can cause a range of symptoms from cold-like signs to diarrhoea.
  3. Astrovirus: Often overlooked, this virus can also lead to diarrhoea and vomiting, albeit usually milder than the viruses mentioned above.
  4. Caliciviruses: This group includes noroviruses, which are particularly common in infants.

Each of these viruses has its specific range of symptoms and levels of severity, making it crucial to consult a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis.

stomach virus in infants

Norovirus in Infants

Norovirus, in particular, is a highly contagious virus and a frequent culprit for infant stomach ailments. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), norovirus is the leading cause of gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) outbreaks in the United States.

How Norovirus Impacts Infants:

  1. Severe Vomiting: Norovirus is notorious for causing intense vomiting episodes that can easily lead to dehydration.
  2. Diarrhoea: Infants with norovirus often experience frequent, watery stools.
  3. Highly Contagious: The virus spreads rapidly, especially in places like daycare centres, making prevention challenging.
  4. Short Duration: Norovirus symptoms in infants typically last 1-3 days but can extend further in severe cases.

Given the norovirus’s severity and high contagion level, parents must recognise its symptoms and consult healthcare providers for prompt treatment.

Infant Stomach Bug Symptoms

Knowing the signs is crucial when your little one catches a stomach bug since they can’t verbalise what’s wrong. According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care, almost 50% of children who contract a stomach bug experience diarrhoea, while roughly 46% deal with vomiting.

Common Symptoms:

  1. Diarrhoea: Characterised by loose, watery stools, occurring more frequently than usual. In severe cases, there can be blood or mucus in the stool.
  2. Vomiting: Occasional throwing up can lead to dehydration if not managed.
  3. General Discomfort: Babies may appear in discomfort, frequently crying, or showing signs of abdominal pain.
  4. Mild Fevers: Some infants may have a body temperature slightly higher than the normal range, typically around 100.4°F (38°C).

It’s worth noting that some infants may experience stomach bug symptoms but have no fever, adding complexity to the diagnosis.

Signs of Stomach Flu in Infants

Stomach flu in infants, also known as viral gastroenteritis, shares many symptoms with a general stomach bug. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlight dehydration as a significant concern for young children with stomach flu.

Other Signs to Look For:

  1. Loss of Appetite: Your baby may show less interest in feeds or even refuse to eat.
  2. Fussiness: A usually happy baby might become irritable and hard to soothe.
  3. Dehydration: Look for fewer wet diapers, dry mouth, and tearless crying, indicating your baby might be dehydrated. In severe cases, dehydration can lead to sunken eyes and a sunken fontanel (the soft spot on your baby’s head).

The stomach bug and stomach flu can cause these symptoms, making it crucial to consult a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Duration and Severity

Understanding the duration and severity of stomach issues in infants can significantly help in planning the management and recovery process. Knowing “How long will this last?” is a vital question every worried parent asks.

Stomach Virus in Infants: How Long Does it Last?

The length of time your infant will experience symptoms depends on the virus they’ve contracted. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most stomach viruses in infants resolve within a week, with symptoms peaking at days 1-3. However, this can vary from one infant to another.

Factors Affecting Duration:

  1. Type of Virus: The specific virus your child has contracted will significantly impact the duration of symptoms.
  2. Overall Health: Infants with a robust immune system may recover more quickly.
  3. Timely Treatment: Prompt medical intervention can also shorten the duration of the illness.

Norovirus Symptoms in Infants

Norovirus often leads to a more severe set of symptoms in infants and can be particularly daunting for parents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), norovirus illness can last 1-3 days in most people but may extend up to 4-5 days in severe cases.

Severity Factors:

  1. Quick Onset: Norovirus symptoms usually appear suddenly, catching families off guard.
  2. Dehydration Risk: Dehydration is high due to severe vomiting and diarrhoea.
  3. Contagious Nature: Norovirus is highly contagious, leading to rapid spread and potential multiple episodes if reinfected.

Given the duration and severity associated with norovirus, seeking medical attention for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan is crucial.

How Is it Diagnosed?

Diagnosing a stomach virus in infants is a multifaceted process that usually starts with a detailed history and thorough examination by a healthcare provider. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, laboratory tests, including stool samples, are often collected to identify the specific virus.

Diagnostic Procedures:

  1. Physical Examination: Checking for signs of dehydration, abdominal pain, and other physical symptoms.
  2. Medical History: Discussing symptoms, onset, and any possible exposure to individuals with similar symptoms.
  3. Stool Sample Test: A sample of the baby’s stool may be collected to identify the specific virus causing the illness.
  4. Blood Tests: In rare cases, blood tests may be performed to rule out bacterial infections or other underlying issues.

Treatment Options

When treating a stomach virus in infants, the good news is that it is often straightforward, albeit requiring keen attention to detail.

Infant Stomach Flu Treatment

The main goal of medical treatment is to manage symptoms and prevent dehydration. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), oral rehydration solutions are the cornerstone for managing infant dehydration.

Medical Treatment Options:

  1. Oral Rehydration Solutions: Drinks like Pedialyte can help restore vital electrolytes lost during vomiting and diarrhoea.
  2. Intravenous Fluids: In severe cases of extreme dehydration, hospitalisation may be required to administer fluids intravenously.
  3. Antibiotics: These are usually not prescribed for viral infections but may be used if a bacterial infection is suspected.

Home Remedies

Home remedies can sometimes be effective for milder cases, although it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider for a tailored treatment plan.

  1. Breastmilk or Formula: These can help maintain hydration levels in mild cases.
  2. Rice Water: Some parents find rice water to help ease symptoms.
  3. BRAT Diet: In older infants, the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet can sometimes effectively control diarrhoea.

Prevention Tips

The saying “prevention is better than cure” is especially true regarding stomach issues in infants. While no method is foolproof, preventive measures can reduce the likelihood of your infant contracting a stomach virus.

Infants and Stomach Flu Prevention

Preventing stomach flu is crucial in safeguarding your infant’s health. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vaccination and hygiene as primary preventive measures.

Preventive Strategies:

  1. Vaccination: The Rotavirus vaccine has effectively reduced the incidence of severe diarrhoea caused by rotavirus in infants.
  2. Hygiene: Regular handwashing, especially before feeding or after diaper changes, can help prevent the spread of viruses.
  3. Disinfection: Use a child-safe disinfectant to clean toys and other items your infant frequently touches.
  4. Isolation: If someone in the household is sick, minimise their contact with the infant.

Norovirus Prevention

Norovirus is particularly stubborn and can survive on surfaces for days or weeks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), norovirus is the leading cause of illness from contaminated food in the United States.

Preventive Measures:

  1. Frequent Handwashing: Soap and water are more effective against norovirus than hand sanitisers. Always wash hands after using the toilet and changing diapers.
  2. Food Safety: Be cautious of the food you eat. Cook seafood thoroughly and practice safe food handling.
  3. Water Quality: Ensure your water source is clean. Boiling water can kill norovirus if you suspect contamination.
  4. Cleaning and Disinfecting: In the case of an outbreak, it’s essential to disinfect not just visible dirt but also other potential areas where the virus could reside.

Incorporating these points for prevention strategies helps complete the article by arming parents with practical steps to protect their infants from stomach viruses.

How can I clean and disinfect my home after a stomach virus?

  • Wash all contaminated surfaces with soap and water.
  • Disinfect surfaces with a bleach solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water).
  • Wash all soiled laundry in hot water.
  • Clean and disinfect toys.
  • Dispose of any contaminated diapers or vomit in a sealed bag.

It is essential to clean and disinfect your home thoroughly after a stomach virus to prevent the spread of the virus to other people.

How can I comfort my infant with a stomach virus?

  • Offer your infant plenty of fluids.
  • Hold your infant close.
  • Offer your infant comfort items, such as a pacifier or blanket.
  • Let your infant rest.
  • Avoid giving your infant medications unless directed by a doctor.

What can I give my infant for a stomach virus?

  1. Oral rehydration solution (ORS): ORS helps to replace fluids and electrolytes lost through vomiting and diarrhoea. It is available over-the-counter or can be made at home.
  2. Breast milk or formula: Continue to offer your infant breast milk or formula as usual. These fluids are essential for hydration and nutrition.
  3. Small, frequent meals: Offer your infant small, regular meals of bland foods, such as toast, crackers, rice, or bananas. Avoid giving your infant greasy, spicy, or sugary foods.
  4. Clear liquids: If your infant is vomiting, offer them clear drinks, such as water, Pedialyte, or clear broths.

When should I take my infant to the doctor for a stomach virus?

  1. If your infant is under 6 months old
  2. If your infant has a fever of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher
  3. If your infant is vomiting blood or bile
  4. If your infant has diarrhoea that is black or bloody
  5. If your infant is showing signs of dehydration, such as sunken eyes, dry mouth, or decreased urination
  6. If your infant is not improving after 24 hours
Read more about cowpox in infants.


Being armed with the correct information can make all the difference when your infant has a stomach virus. Each step is crucial, from recognising the symptoms to knowing when to seek medical attention. The key lies in being proactive rather than reactive.

I hope this article, “Newborn with Stomach Bug”, has provided information to protect and take appropriate action if you develop a stomach virus in infants. Remember, prevention is key to avoiding the spread of these contagious viruses.

Is a stomach bug contagious?

Yes, most stomach bugs are highly contagious, especially norovirus.

What if my infant shows no fever?

Even without a fever, other symptoms like vomiting and diarrhoea are signs enough to consult a healthcare provider.

Is it normal for my infant to have a fever with a stomach virus?

Yes, it is normal for infants to have a fever with a stomach virus. A fever is a sign that the body is fighting off an infection.

Can my infant get dehydrated from a stomach virus?

Yes, infants can get dehydrated from a stomach virus. Vomiting and diarrhoea can cause infants to lose fluids and electrolytes quickly. Signs of dehydration in infants include:
Sunken eyes
Dry mouth
Decreased urination
If you think your infant may be dehydrated, it is essential to see a doctor immediately.

What foods should I avoid giving my infant with a stomach virus?

Greasy foods
Spicy foods
Sugary foods
Dairy products (if your infant is lactose intolerant)

What is the difference between a stomach virus and the flu?

A stomach virus is a viral infection that affects the stomach and intestines. The flu is a viral infection that affects the respiratory system. Symptoms of a stomach virus can include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and fever. Signs of the flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea.

Can my infant get a stomach virus from breastfeeding?

No, infants cannot get a stomach virus from breastfeeding. Breast milk is protective against stomach viruses.

Can my infant get a stomach virus from teething?

Teething can cause infants to drool more, leading to them swallowing more germs. It can increase the risk of getting a stomach virus. However, teething is not a direct cause of stomach viruses.

I'm a Doctor and a Blogger. I started blogging mainly to help others who may be going through similar situations. I hope that by sharing his own experiences, I can offer some guidance or comfort to those dealing with similar issues.

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