What do we know?
Loose stools, tummy ache, and decreased appetite are fairly common after gastroenteritis, or stomach flu, and sometimes persist for as long as six weeks. Unfortunately, tummy ache after the flu is usually caused by gas, and gas pain is one of the most intense pains children feel. This can be a very uncomfortable and disruptive problem, but will get better.
Why does this happen?
Loose stools and gas are caused by inflammation of the bowel, in the stomach. During the acute infection, the inside of the bowel becomes irritated, and sometimes diarrhea causes the villae which line the inside of the bowel to break off.
Once this happens, it takes several weeks for the bowel to fully heal, just like it takes several weeks for a scraped knee to heal after the scab has fallen off. During that time, the bowel does not work as well as usual. Stools remain loose, and the bowel does not absorb food as well, which causes more gas in the bowel. Gas is usually responsible for the tummy ache during this time.
What to do?
First of all, be reassured. Loose stools and the sore tummy get better with time as the bowel fully heals, just like a scraped knee fully heals with time.
A bland diet may help, but there is limited research to clarify this. Generally, you should advance diet as tolerated by your child or grandchild, and use common sense. If any particular food causes more pain or looser stools, avoid it for a few weeks and re-introduce it again later when symptoms resolve.
Definitely carry on with regular activities, and with time, symptoms will fade.
– Dr. G Paul Dempsey
[Featured image: Sharon Mollerus]