Tips To Avoid Stomach Infection In Kids

Stomach pain in children is often a cause for worry for parents. Here is what you should watch out for when it comes to infections and stomach pain in kids.

By Dr Arvind Kumar

Tips To Avoid Stomach Infection In Kids

With dining out and home-delivered food becoming a norm today, children have a wide variety of foods to choose from. However, not all food is necessarily good, as there is always a possibility of outside food being contaminated. This, ultimately, can take a toll on a child’s health, leading to stomach ache in kids, children or toddlers and in some cases, even cause food poisoning.

Parents must be alert if their child is complaining of abdominal pain and take extra precautions to ensure children do not fall sick due to unhealthy food. Here, our expert talks about stomach infection in kids to watch out for and what parents can do in case of stomach pain in children.

Gastroenteritis in babies

Also known as infectious diarrhoea, gastroenteritis is an infection of the digestive system. It is also called the stomach flu, but that is not considered the correct medical term. In mild cases of diarrhoea, fluid intake can give some relief. But if your child has a severe stomach infection, his paediatrician will prescribe necessary medications to treat the problem.

Causes of stomach flu: It can be caused due to viruses such as rotavirus and norovirus. It might also be caused by bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella.

Food poisoning in kids

A dish can be contaminated by germs if the ingredients haven’t been washed before being cooked or the cooked food has been left out in the open. Contaminated food can cause diarrhoea and vomiting in your child.

Types of food poisoning:

Here’s a look at some of the types of food poisoning based on the causative organisms:

  • Campylobacter enteritis: A bacterial infection that causes gastrointestinal problems.
  • Cholera: Caused due to contaminated water, which can lead to diarrhoea and dehydration.
  • E. coli Enteritis: Caused by the E. coli bacteria, the infection can turn severe in some cases.
  • Staphylococcus infection: A mild bacterial infection that causes vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Salmonella infection: A commonly occurring bacterial infection that causes diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and fever.

Preventing stomach ache

The following tips will help you prevent stomach aches and other ailments in your children caused due to food poisoning:

  • Wash hands: When children go outdoors, with or without their parents, they have a tendency to touch everything. Many of these things contain germs that are transferred to children’s hands, contaminating them. When these germs enter the body through the mouth, they cause infections. Frequent washing of hands with soap and water will help keep germs out.
  • Ensure food quality: Ensure that your children avoid eating food outdoors, especially if you are not sure of the hygiene and quality. Always encourage them to eat only well-cooked, homemade food. Food at outdoor stalls is made in bulk and may be kept out for a long time before being served. This leads to the contamination of food with dust and germs.
  • Avoid food cooked in the open: Food at open stalls is generally made by vendors who may not wash their hands before cooking. The water used to prepare the food and to clean the utensils, as well as the swab cloths used for drying them, may contain germs that can lead to contamination of the food.
  • Limit sweets intake: Avoid spoiling children with lots of sweets. This will result in an overdose of sugar intake. Even during festivals children must be encouraged to eat healthy and be mindful of what they are eating. Parents need to keep a watch on the sugar intake of their children, as an excess can cause diarrhoea. Also, too much consumption of chocolates and fried food is not advised. If you are going outdoors, make sure the children eat home-cooked food before stepping out, so that they do not feel hungry outside.
  • Avoid store-bought sweets: Always opt for homemade sweets rather than store-bought ones; avoid sweets with foil on them.  Avoid intake of sweets that are made using colouring agents/additives/taste enhancers. When making sweets at home, avoid using artificial sweeteners. You can use natural sweeteners like jaggery, fruits, honey, dates and fig, instead of sugar. 
  • Discourage canned juices: Do not let children consume a lot of canned juice, as it can upset the stomach. These juices contain artificial sweeteners and flavours. Children should be given fresh juice prepared at home, instead. During family get-togethers and large parties, make sure children do not consume cut fruits that have been kept out for long, as they get contaminated by germs.
  • Watch out for toxic contamination: During the festive season (especially Diwali), children get attracted to firecrackers. These crackers carry toxic material, which if they come in contact with food, can cause serious stomach infections and severe vomiting in children. Parents should ensure that their kids wash their hands thoroughly after using/ touching firecrackers.

Also Read: 5 Common Digestive Problems in Toddlers

Stomach Infection: FAQs

What to eat during stomach infection?

When your child has a stomach infection, you can give her fluids including water, lemon juice and Oral Rehydration Solution, fresh fruits such as bananas and apples and ginger extract and yoghurt.

What not to eat during stomach infection?

Foods your child should not eat while having a stomach infection include milk, cheese and other dairy products. Fatty and spicy foods, pre-packaged and processed foods, and fibrous fruits such as mangoes and figs are also not a good idea.

Seeing your child suffer from a stomach infection can really be painful. However, it may also be difficult to prevent her from eating what she likes. So, as a responsible parent, you should be extra-careful in choosing your child’s foods and insist on personal hygiene. Being cautious ensures that your child always stays healthy.

The author is Head of Department – Pediatrics at a leading hospital in Delhi. 

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