What is the stomach flu?
The “stomach flu” is really a misnomer, explains Barbara Frankowski, MD, professor of pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital in Burlington. “It’s not the flu that you get protection from when you get the flu shot,” says Frankowski. She prefers to use the term stomach bug to describe a group of viruses that can upset your stomach, bringing on nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
The two main culprits are the rotavirus, which is more common in the winter months, and the adenovirus and echovirus, both of which prefer the climate in the summer and spring. In fact, says Frankowski, the reason kids seem to get what people call the “stomach flu” so often, is because there are so many viruses that can cause it. The good news is that, while uncomfortable (and, let’s face it, gross), in most kids, a stomach bug is not a serious illness and will resolve on its own after a few days of TLC. Here’s our guide to spotting the symptoms, taking care of your little patient, knowing when to call your doctor, and avoiding it altogether.