Stomach Flu (gastroenteritis)
This information is about stomach flu for adults and some information does not apply to children. You’ll learn what stomach flu is, what its symptoms are, what to eat when you have stomach flu and how to treat stomach flu.
Stomach flu is often called “intestinal flu.” It’s an illness caused by a virus, and it produces different symptoms in different people. What people call stomach flu is usually marked by nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and a general sick feeling.
How to Treat Stomach Flu Symptoms
First, you need to know that antibiotics, such as penicillin, don’t work on flu because antibiotics only kill bacteria. The flu is caused by a virus. Your body’s defenses do the best job in fighting the illness.
You can help your body fight the flu by getting as much rest as possible. Do light activities if you must do something, but rest as soon as you get tired. Stay home from work, unless your symptoms are mild. You’ll recover faster that way, and you won’t risk infecting others at work.
You should also drink enough fluids to avoid dehydration — but that takes some care when your symptoms are nausea and diarrhea. So let’s cover what you can do to relieve these symptoms.
What to Eat When You Have Stomach Flu
When your stomach is upset, the last thing it needs is food. If you feel nauseated, give your stomach a rest from food. Don’t eat or drink anything for about two hours. If you are vomiting, don’t eat or drink anything for about four hours. Then begin taking small sips of water. If you can keep the water down, gradually work up to small amounts — half-a-cup or less — of Gatorade, flat ginger ale, or half-water half-grape juice (don’t drink juice if you are also having diarrhea). Do this for four to eight hours. You can flatten ginger ale by stirring it to let the bubbles escape. If you are keeping down liquids, and feel like it, try eating saltine crackers or dry toast. Avoid sugary drinks, orange juice and other acidic beverages, and foods that are high in sugar, greasy or spicy.
You can also try the anti-nausea drug Dramamine if you are sure that you are not pregnant or allergic to it. Dramamine is not safe to take during pregnancy. This non-prescription medication is available at drug stores, and should be used as directed. If these measures don’t control your nausea, you should contact your healthcare provider. You should also call your healthcare provider if you take daily medication for any chronic medical condition and the nausea prevents you from taking your medicine.
Another common symptom of stomach flu is diarrhea. If you develop diarrhea, don’t eat or drink anything for four hours. Then start with sips of water and work up gradually, over several hours, to small amounts of ginger ale, Jell-O, Gatorade, or bouillon (clear soup). Again, you can also try saltines or dry toast. But don’t eat fruit juices or other solid foods for 24 to 48 hours. These foods will just stimulate the diarrhea. Sometimes dairy products also stimulate diarrhea after the initial flu, and therefore, it may be wise to stay away from dairy products for a few weeks.
After the first 24 to 48 hours, gradually resume eating solid foods like bananas, applesauce, or dry toast. Meanwhile, you can try the non-prescription medication Donagel or Kaopectate, as directed on the label, to help control diarrhea.
With diarrhea, you should call your healthcare provider if you don’t improve after three days — or if the diarrhea gets worse. Also call if your diarrhea is bloody, if you have severe abdominal cramps associated with nausea, vomiting and fever, or if you are sick after having recently returned from a trip to another country.
The stomach flu virus is contagious and can spread to family and friends
Viral gastroenteritis is contagious. The viruses that cause stomach flu are spread through close contact with infected persons (for example, by sharing food, water, or eating utensils of someone who has the stomach flu). So don’t let anyone eat or drink after you. You can also spread the virus by not washing your hands after cleaning up vomit or diarrhea, or after using the bathroom. So the best way to prevent the spread of the virus is washing your hands often and not spreading the virus for others.
Key points about stomach flu:
- Stomach flu can have different symptoms, but the common ones are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Only your body can cure this condition, but you can help it do the job by getting plenty of rest.
- For nausea and vomiting, stop eating for two to four hours, then gradually introduce small amounts of water and other fluids. Avoid most solid foods for 24 hours.
- For diarrhea, don’t eat or drink for four hours; then gradually increase your intake of fluids. Avoid most solid foods and fruit juices for 24 to 48 hours.
- The stomach flu virus is contagious – don’t let anyone eat or drink after you.
- If your stomach flu symptoms are severe, unusual, or persistent, call your healthcare provider for advice.
Call your doctor or go to the emergency room if you have bloody diarrhea, if you become dehydrated (feel weak, lightheaded or dizzy, or your heart is racing), if you’ve been vomiting for more than 2 days or if you’re vomiting blood.Tags: stomach flu, gastroentritis, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal flu