Recovering from Stomach Virus: 3 Signs Your Child Is No Longer Contagious

Do they need to miss ANOTHER day of school?

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If your kid came down with a stomach bug and has already missed three days of kindergarten (and you or your partner has missed three days of work), you might be getting restless about getting your kid back in the classroom—without spreading the virus to others, of course.

“When your child has a stomach virus, it can feel like an eternity,” says Preeti Parikh, MD, a pediatrician at The Mount Sinai Hospital and chief medical editor at HealthiNation. “Unfortunately, it could take up to a week before they’re fully back to themselves.”

The worst of the stomach virus symptoms—diarrhea and vomiting—should improve within one to three days, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.  However, it’s not uncommon to see episodes of vomiting or diarrhea that persist throughout the week. If your child is getting better, vomiting should start happening less and less, and their stool should start becoming more formed, according to Dr. Parikh. If you’re not noticing these improvements, better to be safe than sorry: It’s time to see a doctor. (Learn more info about when to see a doctor for stomach virus here.)

As for preventing the spread of stomach virus to your kid’s classmates and daycare buddies? There are a few signs your child is less contagious, according to Dr. Parikh.

  • Their diarrhea is contained. It might still be a little softer than their usual trips to the bathroom, but their stool should be firm enough that they are able to make it to the bathroom and it’s not coming out of their underwear or diaper.

  • They are no longer vomiting. Try having your child gradually return to his normal diet and make sure he can keep it down. (Here’s what a child should eat while sick with a stomach virus.)

  • They have not had a fever for at least 24 hours. A return to normal temps is a good sign that the bug is on its way out.

Once you can recognize these signs of stomach virus improvement, your kid is ready to inch back into their usual routine.

Despite being “less contagious” with a stomach virus, talk to your child about continuing to practice good hygiene, like washing hands and not sharing food or utensils. Learn more tips to prevent the spread of stomach virus here.