Half-strength apple juice can help some kids get through stomach flu

Half-strength apple juice can help some kids get through stomach flu

NEW YORK – When little kids have the stomach flu and need to drink fluids, half-strength apple juice - and whatever fluid the child prefers - can be as effective as expensive electrolyte solutions, researchers say.

The treatment of stomach flu, or gastroenteritis, usually focuses on replacing fluids lost through diarrhea or vomiting, but the electrolyte solutions are relatively expensive and kids often don't like the way they taste.

"In many high-income countries, the use of dilute apple juice and preferred fluids may be an appropriate alternative to electrolyte maintenance solution use in children with mild gastroenteritis and minimal dehydration," Dr. Steven D. Freedman from University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada told Reuters Health by email.

Freedman's team studied 647 children ages six months to five years old who came to the emergency department with mild dehydration from stomach flu.

Half the children were given half-strength apple juice followed by their favorite drink, and half received an apple-flavored electrolyte solution, the researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Twenty-five percent of the kids who drank the electrolyte solution still needed intravenous (IV) fluids or other additional treatment, compared to only about 17 percent of the kids who drank apple juice and their favorite drink.

Two-year-olds and older children responded best to apple juice, but even the younger group fared slightly better with apple juice than with the electrolyte solution.

In addition, children treated with apple juice required fewer IV fluids and had lower hospitalization rates than children treated with the electrolyte solution.