Stomach Flu in Children
Stomach flu is highly contagious and can spread easily from person to person. The viruses that cause stomach flu in children are often found in the stool or vomit of infected people. Stomach flu transmission can happen in one of several ways, including:
- Eating foods or drinking liquids that are contaminated with a stomach flu virus
- Having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms (for example, when caring for someone with the illness, or sharing food or eating utensils with someone who is ill)
- Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with a stomach flu virus and putting their hands in their mouth.
Children can spread stomach flu both before and after they become sick with diarrhea. They can sometimes pass the virus to other members of the family and to close contacts.
Once the virus has entered the body, it travels to the small intestine, where it begins to multiply. Approximately 1 to 2 days later, symptoms of stomach flu can appear. This period between infection with the stomach flu and the beginning of symptoms is known as the "stomach flu incubation period."
Not all children who are infected with a stomach flu virus will develop stomach flu symptoms. If symptoms do occur, the illness can begin suddenly. Symptoms of stomach flu in children can last anywhere from 1 to 10 days, depending on which virus a child is infected with. Stomach flu symptoms can be mild to severe. The most common symptoms are diarrhea and vomiting.
(Click Stomach Flu Symptoms for more information.)