School illnesses: what you need to know about your child’s “upset stomach" - Columbus Gastrointestinal Disorders

School has started for most school districts in Columbus, Ohio and neighboring cities. And with the start of the school year also comes the start of many childhood and teen illnesses. Among the most common illnesses is the cold, but the gastrointestinal "bug" is usually not far behind. Viral gastroenteritis, or the "stomach flu", is one of the most common causes of diarrhea, nausea and vomiting in school age children. Viral gastroenteritis is a highly infectious illness because it can be spread quickly through contact with hands, contaminated food or water, or through direct contact with fecal matter. Areas with large groups of people in close contact, such as schools, can spread this illness very quickly. Fortunately, viral gastroenteritis only lasts a few days and is rarely a dangerous condition. Even though it is almost impossible to prevent children from ever acquiring an infectious gastrointestinal illness, there are ways to prevent the spread of the infection and these include:

Hand Washing - this is the #1 way to prevent the spread of gastroenteritis as well as many other illnesses. Teach children to always wash their hands after using the bathroom.

Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating

Maintain sanitary bathroom conditions - keep these areas clean

Keep pet feeding areas away from family eating areas and do not wash pet bowls in kitchen sinks used for personal dishes

Do not drink from ponds or streams or other areas that are not certified by your public health department

When your child comes home from school with an upset stomach and diarrhea, make sure to keep him well hydrated during the course of his illness. Do not give him/her over the counter anti-diarrheal medications before contacting your doctor. If symptoms continue for several weeks or longer, this could indicate a more serious condition and your doctor should be contacted immediately.

For more information on gastrointestinal illnesses in children, their causes, symptoms, "what to watch for" and treatment visit KidsHealth @ http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/index.html#cat20048