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My way to cure my children's diarrhea and stomach flu

When my kids have diarrhea, especially the one accompanied with profuse vomiting, I do my best (but do not always succeed, to be honest) to act rationally and fast enough and not to panic or get angry.

As we all know, the condition is caused either by some wrong food they have had or, most commonly, it is just the nasty “friend” visiting – the usual virus.

I hate that “friend” a lot – I consider it a “female friend” in fact, as “she” would always come uninvited to spoil everything you had worked so hard to achieve – good health of your loved ones, nice plans for traveling or just dreams of spending the rest of the weekend in peace  - well, “she” surely wants to ruin it all.

So, when the virus comes around, as we all know, there is not much left for parents to do. Anyway, I always have hopes that the condition might have been caused after all by some school-cafeteria burrito or a pepperoni pizza that the poor kid's stomach needs to take out asap.

Well, leaving all reasons to the doctors, I always try to fight back with the right diet plan.

As a rule, while kids are throwing up, they never think of eating... We all know that. But once it all stops, usually within not more than a couple of hours, the thought of food crawls back into their heads and emptied stomachs... The cravings surely gravitate about ice cream, chocolate or fruits and all the other bad, bad options.

So, what I do is the following - I try doing my best to give my kids predominantly fluids (in small amounts!) for a period of 6 to 9 hrs after the start of the acute diarrhea or vomiting.

I usually give them herbal tea (real herbal one, like camomile – no black tea, as it irritates the stomach further on) or water, or Gatorade (both room-temperature, not refrigerated). Any fluids should be given into very small portions – like a sip or two with a straw.

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Day 0 (aka. the very day it happens) - Drinking options:

•    room-temperature water (cold water can make things worse);

•    unsweetened herbal tea (no sugar or honey in it!) – I sometimes squeeze in a little bit of lemon, if my kids feel like having some, but no sweeteners whatsoever;

•    Gatorade is an excellent option – it is enriched with vitamins and minerals, which kids badly need in such condition – but I always stick to small sips, taken every 10 min.

Dehydration is the most dangerous part when kids are having stomach flu. They can go for quite many hours without food but we, as parents, do need to make sure they start getting enough fluids back into their body. And, of course, you know about the "small portions" rule…

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Day 1 Diet: When food is introduced again – key thing: Toast, hard biscuits, salty pretzels – but in small amounts!:

If things are getting better and my young raptors start craving for food – I have really hard times but remain firm and stone-hearted about sticking to the necessary diet plan - otherwise we would go into just another vicious circle all over again…

My kids get back to eating small portions of food, staring with the more salty and carby ones (I never do sweet foods until kids are well enough):

•    toasted bread (no spreading on it) accompanied with a cup of sugarless herbal tea;

•    Feta cheese is a good option with the toast – but it should be kept in a container full with water so the salt goes off. Toast with a small piece of feta cheese sounds almost like a delightful meal for my poor kids, especially when they have spent hours suffering in the bathroom to take everything out of their system…

•    Hard biscuits are ok - like my daughter’s favorite “Honey Maid”, but again -  in small amounts;

•    Some pretzels are ok, too – like a couple of bites at a time;

•    I would also give them half a banana, too – although it might cause a problem for some kids. Mine were ok with bananas but it has to be just the fruit; no smoothies or banana shakes with milk - no, this would not work at all - nothing cold, nothing syrupy, nothing sweetened. Just plain banana to chew on.

Herbal tea, Gatorade and room-temperature water remain the only drinking options in my house.

No matter the hateful looks or the plea in their eyes. Juices or sodas will not be served.  Mom is stone cold and is boiling some more herbal tea.



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Day 2 Diet – key thing: No sugar; no spicy seasonings; no meat; no butter or oil:

Day 2 is as essential for me as Day 1, no matter the “Mom, I am sooooo well now, stop torturing me!” remarks.

I have witnessed some nasty relapses with my son when he was very young, so I have learned my lessons and never melt down anymore when my kids are in a hurry to get back to meat dishes, milk or fruits and juices. I believe that it is a good idea to spend yet another day being more careful with the diet, so I stick to it firmly.

Some helpful menu ideas for Day 2:

•    A plain baked potato – no butter, or sour-cream on it, nothing: just a small pinch of salt if the kids would not take it plain.

•    I prepare some plain boiled rice for them  – no seasonings in it, nothing added; no vegetable oil or butter!

•    I also give my kids boiled carrots in Day 2 – this might not sound like the most delicious option but my kids like carrots and do not mind having some boiled ones.

•    A nice treat for the suffering souls is the baked apple (no sugar or cinnamon added!) – just plain baked apple. My children consider it a true delight when they have stomach-flu and love having it – but I am there to always check on the quantities and to act as mood-spoiler. Half to one medium apple at a time is more than enough.

Well, not much of choice for a kid so far, but after one more day I move on to slowly introducing back some of the foods my kids like. I keep away from anything fried or cold (like ice-cream or frozen smoothies) until the end of that "week of fun"...

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Day 3 – "Is there an end to all that torture, Mom?"

As a sensible Household Shiva, I torture my kids on the third day too and I can read all the bad thoughts and feelings in their eyes but I know that my system works okay.

I have to admit that I did huge mistakes in the past allowing myself to loosen the grip on my then-3-year-old son just because he badly wanted to taste some meat dish on the second day’s evening. Well, I let him have some meat for dinner. Needless to say, we spent the whole night discharging liquids from all possible outlets the Nature had offered and then he had high fever to top it all. Then I promised myself to never ever let that happen again and I have tried to stick to that decision ever since.

So, now I embrace the full three-day diet plan no matter the protests from the young "vomitters". Our pediatrician had advised me to stick to it for even longer but I play with the days flexible, depending on how hard their condition is and if they have fever or not.

One thing I learned the hard way, too - in case the kids have fever or stomach ache - never use Ibuprofen medications (like Motrin, Advil, and the rest int he group) to suppress either. They seem to irritate the stomach further on and worsen the condition. Check with your doctor or pharmacist for other alternatives.

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After Day 3… – "Are you kidding, Mom, are there any more days like that, really?"

The key thing is that we should be very careful AFTER that 3-day period as well. I learned to never go with extremes after the three days' diet - nothing too cold, nothing too hot, nothing too spicy, nothing too sweet, at least for a couple of days more.

As for medications – we should follow the doctor’s advice here. Diarrhea pills might not always be the best solution as sometimes it is better to let all fluids leave the body first - so all we might find helpful to do is just take measures against possible dehydration, especially in case of high fever. There are some nice medications that help the stomach calm down faster but we should not experiment with these either.

Doctors know best here. We, as parents, can help a lot with the right diet, though.

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Sum-up of the Menu (for Days 2 and 3, and maybe a couple more days):

The options range among the following choices:

•    Liquid or mashy foods; no fats added (no butter or veg.oil); no sugar added  – everything in small quantities;

•    Fats and sugar can be carefully introduced on Day 4 – if there is a setback, we go back again with Day 1 through 3;

•    Breakfast option: Hard biscuits and sugarless tea with some lemon

•    Some apple or banana – small slices in the beginning; not more than half the fruit at a time during Days 2 and 3

•    Freshly squeezed juices: apple or carrot (in a blender or juice robot) are ok; banana too, if they would have it mashy – but preferably less water to add.

•    All-boiled “meals” (if we can call them” meals”) should be prepared without any butter/veg.oil or seasonings. All “meals” should be just boiled to cook – nothing fried, no seasonings added.

•    These are the “meals” I cook for my kids during that condition: cooked rice;  boiled chicken meal; potato soup; zucchini soup; at the end of Day 3 - chicken soup as well; baked potato; boiled potato;
•    Day 3 is ok with boiled macaroni – but no cheese on top. You can go for the option of crumbled feta cheese on top, if your kids like it.

•    No dairy products whatsoever!!!

•    Forbidden foods: everything your kids actually love, to be honest:  no cakes, no chocolate (I do not buy anymore the theory that “chocolate causes constipation” – I tried it with my son when he was younger – no, it did not cause constipation; it caused more diarrhea…), no fruits - grapes, peaches, apricots; no dairy products whatsoever.

Wait for several days more and it will be worth the hard times.