Montana Public Radio

Helping Kids Cope With Stomach Flu: Dr. Starbuck Explains

Mar 23, 2017

Hi!  I’m Dr. Jamison Starbuck, a naturopathic family physician with health tips for kids about stomach flu. Kids know what stomach flu is right?  That awful feeling in your stomach that you might throw up.  That’s called ‘nausea’.  When you have the stomach flu and nausea, you probably will throw up.

You might also get diarrhea – you’ll poop lots and lots and your poop will be liquid.  YUCK!  Stomach flu is yucky!

Stomach flu is usually caused by a germ called a virus.  To get over the stomach flu, your body has to kill the virus.  It can do this on its own in a few days, but you can do things to speed that up and to feel better sooner.

Here are a few tips about how to do that:

First, don’t eat any food.  When you have the stomach flu your body can’t digest food.  So even though you might be hungry, the food you eat will sit there like a lump in your stomach and probably you’ll throw it up.

Second, rest.  You need to lie around, on the couch, in your bed or wherever you feel comfortable resting.  You can get up sometimes, and go to the bathroom when you need to, but mostly you need to be lying down.  Doing that will help your body work to kill the virus and you will feel better sooner than if you run around and don’t relax very much.

Third, drink ginger or mint tea.  They are soothing to an upset stomach.  Lots of people have these at home.  If not, your parents can these teas in the grocery store.  One I like for stomach flu is “Grandma’s Tummy Mint” tea.

To decide which tea to drink, do the sniff test.  Ask your Mom or Dad to let you smell the tea before they make it.  Pick the one that smells good to you.  If you think it smells bad, don’t drink it.  You’ll probably throw it up and it won’t help you get better.

Fourth, drink electrolytes.  Electrolytes are minerals your body needs in order for your body to work correctly.  Calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium are electrolytes you might know.  You can get electrolytes in sports drinks but the sugar in these drinks can make you feel worse.  Chicken broth or chicken and rice soup have electrolytes, but don’t have sugar.  Just have a little bit at a time; small sips are best.

Fifth, ask your parents to try a mustard poultice.  A poultice is something you put on the outside of the body in order to heal something on the inside.  A mustard poultice helps calm down your stomach and relieve your nausea and diarrhea.

To make a mustard poultice, put one tablespoon of dry mustard in one cup of flour.  Add water to make the flour and mustard into a paste.  Then spread the paste all over a warm, damp square piece of cloth about as big as a plate.  Put the cloth over your stomach with your belly button in the center of the cloth.  Cover it with a dry towel, and put a hot water bottle or heating pad on low on top of the dry cloth.  Leave it on for about 15 minutes.  Your parents should check your skin every 5 minutes because some kids are sensitive and their skin can get red and irritated from the mustard.  If that happens, take the poultice off.

To review, don’t eat food, do rest, drink peppermint or ginger tea, get electrolytes, and maybe try a mustard poultice.  Remember, always ask your parents before you take any medicine or do a poultice.

I’m Dr. Starbuck and I’m wishing you well.