Stomach Flu (gastroenteritis)

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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: nausea, diarrhea, intestinal flu, vomiting, gastroentritis, stomach flu
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Comments

314 Responses to “Stomach Flu (gastroenteritis)”
  1. stomachfluvictim says:

    I got stomach flu on a thursday and it was my last gcse exam i forced myself to do the walk to school only i didnt make it as i had terrible cramps so i walked home i was so annoyed at myself but before i knew it i had vomited numerous times. I had aches all down my back my head was hot beyond belief and i felt the worst i have ever felt being ill. I couldn’t even get comfortable diorea was also a symptom, the second day i still felt dizzy but i was much better on my feet, i woke up with back pains but i kept drinking and eating bread about 2 slices a day until i got diorea so i stopped, but paracetomol did help reduce the headache, ive woken up today feeling much better im on the mend but compared to the awful first day i feel amazing in comparision. get well soon fellow tummy bugs.

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  2. ella says:

    I would just love to know when I can take fluids again, they keep coming up even when i take tiny sips, it’s nearly 24 hours and I puked incessantly for the first 12 and then just retching which is the worst of all as there is nothing to come up.

    I’m taking tiny drops of honey just to try feed my body something which feels like the right thing.

    This is hell, I feel so sorry for all of you! !!!

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    • Winnie says:

      I know. :( I’m on vacation which makes things even worse. Whenever I drink or eat something, I vomit. I can’t even drink water!! I tried drinking ginger ale and Gatorade and it’s slowly working. I hope I can recover soon so I can enjoy the rest of my vacation. I know exactly how all of you feel and I feel like dying right now could make things better. X_X =’(

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    • Crystal says:

      Try seven up with the bubbles stirred out then plain toast. you may also want to call your doctor and get nausea medicince. I took some after vominting and direra. I sm going back to work tommorow. 7up is gettler on your stomach than water and will keep you from bieng dehydrated.

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  3. Jennifer says:

    I have been having very upset stomach aches with pain& nausea everyday &also diarrhea! I don’t even know how many days I have had this for but I lost track maybe like a week& im sure im not pregnant me&my bf use protection every time &no accidents! But its the worse feeling ever!!
    im going to the e.r today because im tired of having to use the bathroom, even in the middle of my sleep I have to get up 2 go use the bathroom..I tried gingerale but is jus eased the pain for a little while but I drink water all day so idk what else to drink..can someone please give me advice?

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  4. Steve A. says:

    The weird/funky dreams thing is definately related. I get it with every fever. Like my mind is repeating this weird meaningless mantra, and another part of my mind knows its nonsense but the other part just keeps obsessing on this confusing and weird sequence. I’ve been diarrheaing every couple hours for 5 days. My fever was worst the first 2 days, its gone now. But the diarrhea is just not leaving! anything I put in my stomach just gets wadded up and slowly turned to diarrhea. And the absolute worst thing is that I’m getting HORRIBLE gas pains and stomach cramping, yet its like I’m constipated, I can’t release it until its finally ready, at which time it flows out in burning diarrhea. I’m getting better but jeez I think this things going to take a couple weeks to fully go away. Lost 4 lbs in 5 days too.

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  5. joeseph says:

    i started feeling dizzy and heavy thursday night. my brother was sick for about 3 days last week so i figured i got a cold from him. so i bought nyquil liquigels. as soon as i ate 1 i instantly threw up everything i ate that day. i felt better for about an hr then got really dizzy and had bad aches everywhere. i could barely sleep and woke up sore. by saturday i started having horrible diahrea ( it was just pure water) and vomiting at least 5-10 times a day. every time i threw up i felt like a million bucks but an hr later it would hit me again.i have lost 10 lbs. since thursday but i dont have medical insurance so i cant see a doctor. saturday night i thougt i was better because i pooped solid. an hr later the diahrea returned. its sunday now i still have the horrible cough and my throat feels raw. i havent vomited because i dont even want to eat anything until im better. and the watery diaharea is getting a little better. hopefully tomorrow i wont be sick this is horrible

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  6. Amber says:

    Yesterday i started to feel nauseous and could not get up from my seat, i went to bed early thinking sleep would cure this weird outbreak of nausea but instead i woke up around 8 times through out the night vomited violently. At first there was no diarrhea but today, Saturday, The first lot of diarrhea came and i am completely tired and can’t keep anything down not even sips of water. I am finding myself very dehydrated and when ever i sleep i find myself waking up every hour. Im so tired and hate this illness.

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  7. Katelin says:

    Ever since I was in Busch Gardens after I went on LochnessMonster I have been pooping a little first my poop was brownish-green I thought I was ok My stomach has been hurting ever since I went to Water Country U.S.A I thought my head was hot because I was sweating It was hot there was so many people when ever I eat a few bites of food I can’t eat anymore I think I have a feaver of 102.1 or lower. My stomach has been growling and I think I might throw up Please reply I need advice I’m drinking water eating soup and I don’t know what to do! Im only 12!

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  8. Karensa says:

    I am currently working overseas and experienced the worst stomach flu that I have experienced since 4th grade when I was 9 years old, I am 32 now. I never want to see another potato (that’s what I last ate before getting sick) for the rest of my life. I was so sick, I tried everything, antiemitics, antidiahreaa, suppositories, nothing helped until I went to the emergency room and had iv and some other medicine. I have no clue what it was, I just wanted to get better and that it did. I spent the entire weekend in bed. I would not wish this on my worst enemy. Word to the wise, stay away from fresh vegetables while overseas and I encourage everyone to truly be careful on what they eat.

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  9. gilo says:

    thanks alot for the info about stomach flu. 100% deadon symptoms. remedies that worked for me :plenty of rest, keep away from smells-nauseating, do not eat anythng solid for 2 days minimum, always diarrhoea wen it calls even if its so small-clears up stomach, keep warm in cold weather, hot showers made me feel better, avoid noisy/very loud areas/ very bright rooms-helps with rest, wear loose esp around stomach. Get well soon

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  10. Lila says:

    So I thought I was having an eating disorder, but after reading this, I feel much better to know that perhaps I have the stomach flu as well. Started Wednesday, couldn’t eat anything, vomitted frequently, diarrhea, had stomach pains but eventually they subsided. I’m on day three and I still can’t eat a full meal, the fact that I was under heat exhaustion wasn’t helping too much either. I’m starving but I can’t bring myself to eat, as soon as I look at the food, I start feeling sick. The vomitting is probably the worse i’ve had, considering I haven’t anything, so there was nothing to even bring up, just clear phlegm, but it won’t go away. Like Nichole, i’ve been sweating like crazy. I really don’t want to go to the doctor, but I think i should go, hoping it’s just this stupid flu. Reading these comments, I truly hope everyone who has had this flu or may get this flu (I truly hope not) I give you prayers and good thoughts, because this flu is absolutely the worse I have ever felt.

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  11. Julie says:

    My daughter got the flu last Saturday. Aches, chills and a low grade fever. she is over most of that, but still has nausea. It’s been a week now. Has anyone else had it this long? She thought she was feeling better and had a sub sandwich, but 45 minutes later threw that up. Any suggestions?

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    • Andrew says:

      I’m on day #7. Stopped eating completely last week, until Friday I felt that the growling in my stomach was no longer the nasty little virus, but rather, hunger pangs. I WAS WRONG. I ate simple, piece of fish and steamed veggies. 2am the bathroom came a-calling. This afternoon I finally decided to take my temp (yes, I am a grown man and stubborn) because I’ve suspected a fever on and off for the last few days. When the temp hit 100deg I gave in to the Tylenol. I read that this can last up to 10days.

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  12. Joaquin says:

    My god I feel like crap, havent felt like this for years, I couldnt eat at all today, hope it doesnt affect me, I am working out a lot so this totally screws my rythm up. Good luck to everyone this virus is so damn nasty…

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  13. Susan says:

    I recently just got the stomach flu but i still have the diarrhea problem. Now i can’t eat because i feel like vomiting and having to use the bathroom right after i eat a couple bites. I am really hungry. I’m hungry to the point where i can pass out, but then i can’t eat because i feel like vomiting after couple bites. I don’t know what to do because i am seriously hungry. What should i do? I am so hungry……

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    • Dee says:

      Me too SO HUNGRY! But can’t eat..I’ve had this over two weeks,no vomiting just the other end ;(

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  14. Arlene says:

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  15. Deedee says:

    I been real sick for a couple of days now.First I was just cold but my body was hot all over.I looked weird wearing a sweater in the summer.I throw up everything I draank.Im going too to try not to eat any thing for four hours.If I dont feel better by tomorrow I guess I’m going to go to the doctors office.Stay positive everyone-I wish you all well.

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  16. Susan F says:

    I have had this bug since June 4th…..just got better the middle of July then it hit again the following week. Now as of last Thurs. it is back. My dr. thinks mine is bacterial so I am on heavy duty antibiotics. On the worst days, I ate, bananas, rice,applesauce and tea. It is my version of the BRAT diet.

    I am praying what ever this mess is it is over soon for everyone.

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  17. Robert says:

    I get the stomach flu ay most one a year and nothing else. Just at the end of one now and seen to have gone through what everyone else has, but with different severity. 5 days ago I felt nauseaus, not to the point of feeling like throwing up, but dizzy. Ate and drank like normal. 24 hours later I get this splitting migrane and throw up 5-6 times (the one headache a year always makes me throw up) but usually the headache goes away after but this one didn’t. Ended up popping 3 Advil so that I could sleep (I’m a big boy) and the next morning I felt fine, but like everyone else ended up being a little uneven. Slept on and off for last two days and am feeling better. Spent so much time on the toilet that I think all the bacteria in my intestines is gone (after a while just ended up passing water). I can put up with the dizziness and feeling off but not the headaches. Guess thats my superhero weakness :)
    Listening to your body seems to be the best thing to do. Most important is to drink, take a bit if food if you can, and sleep.
    I just wish there was some self-diagnosis that could be done at the onset to confirm it was a virus. The whole process would be easier if you didn’t have to guess.

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  18. Gregg Andrews says:

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  19. Bonnie says:

    The advice given here is not very accurate. When you have gastroenteritis, you should NOT take any medicine to slow down or stop the vomiting and/or diarrhea (ex, Kaopectate, Dramamine) as that can potentially prolong the illness. Taking an over the counter pain reliever for fever, chills and achiness is encouraged, and can help alleviate those symptoms. There are many online sources (as well as in books of medicine) which will confirm this information….do your own research!

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  20. Eliazar says:

    Hey all you people out there with that stomach virus. im here to comfort you to the best of my abilities. I too once had the stomach flu, a violent out burst of vomiting and diarrhea. I really feel for you people cause I know exactly what u went through. My first night puked about 4 times and constant diarrhea. and for about 5 days on ward solid foods were troublesome and the diarrhea continued but usually the vomiting last only about 4 or 5 hours with one good vomit about hour or hour and a half. What you need to do during this time is drink Gatorade for electrolytes and hydration. Dry crackers or toast to put some nutrients and fiber into ur system. And a few miracles that helped me recover were broiled chicken cutlets in lemon juice with just a dash of salt and pepper and a piece of toast. The chicken should be very thin and easily digestible and lemon juice helps digestion. Also after so much purging good bacteria in ur stomach is gone so to replenish that and get ur stomach functioning correct yogurt has exactly what u need. I got mine with little pieces of fruit in it so it wasent completely bland. Your stomach will greatly appreciate this. And lastly i had access to peppermint tea(peppermint candy might be affective as well, at least it will clean up vomit breath). peppermint soothes upset stomachs. This is all I have to share with you you can drink un carbonated ginger ale or coke a cola to un-carbonate put a straw in the cup and blow till the bubbles stop may take a min or two. Also try breaking ur cold, get in sweat pants a sweater and a wool hat then under a quilt and sweat even it ur uncomfortable. Also i have a theory that if u take a cold shower before the sweat section this will speed up the process seeing as ur sick bodies heart rate is beating probably very low because you’ve inactive for a while so the cold shower will force your bodys heart rate up rapidly to keep you from freezing. So hop out the shower (if ur shivering from the intense cold thats good) then dry off throughly and hop under the blankets quick. Put on a show that makes u laugh or is utterly ridiculous i like spongebob. Then rest ur little heart away. I hope this helps anyone who reads it and excuse my grammer im only 17 but i deeply feel for anyone who has to experience this awful sickness

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  21. Dee says:

    I have had this stomach virus for over 2 weeks now,It is brutal.No vomiting,mainly just diarrhea (sorry)and intense lower abdominal cramping,oh yes with low grade fever,aches & pains and can’t eat yet So Hungry!Alot of people i’ve talked to have these symptoms as I do with no vomiting,Nurse told one it can last 3 days til’ a month ..longer in patients with weak immune systems….Too much illness this past year…mailny tummy bugs!,,,Wish You All Well,this is a brutal longer lasting one!

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  22. Lo says:

    Thanks so much for the information. I’ve been sick for two days with a head ache, stomach ache, vommiting, low fever, diaarhea, and a sore throat! I feel terrible, and I’m not exactly sure what’s wrong. I read that some people experience a sore throat with the stomach flu. I’ll go to the doctor tomorrow to find out what exactly it is.

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  23. Daniela says:

    hello, i have a question about stomach flu, im getting bad sharp pains on the left side of my stomach, along with nausea and a little diarreah, is it part of the flu or do i have something even more serious? thank you.

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  24. Fairfield County CT Girl says:

    I am very curious as to where this flu is right now. Mine developed last weekend and I thought I had an ulcer. Thank God someone came forward and shared a similar experience. We figured out it was a virus of some sort because we both had the smae exact symptoms and we both were so fearful that it was payback time with Advil after using it much too freely. We both experienced a burning ulcer like pain, like heartburn, high in the stomach. Then it traveled to the abdomen. Pepcid AC actually helps at bedtime, and bland foods like tea and dry toast. Yogurt actually made my stomach hurt. I have to take it moment by moment. Right now I just work up and I feel queasy, but I managed to eat Special K and a few blueberries without the discomfort that can follow. I awoke with discomfort, however, so I had to eat to feel better. By the way, I’ve had no vomiting nor diarrhea, just hard burning pain.

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  25. Dee says:

    Oh I’m in Illinois….5 weeks now..stil have this Gastro-Bug…Been to ER not bacterial (I do have a weak immune system)It comes in waves..lower cramping,headaches,sore throat,that sick behind eyes sick feeling and one mesed up stomach!..no vomiting…Read somewhere rite now someone wrote it’s a virus Dr told them..can last 3 days to 6 weeks..SHE HAD IT A MONTH & HER EDERLY PARENTS 2 MONTHS!

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  26. Amy says:

    I am also in Illinois. My entire family has this virus. This is going on week four! It started with bad diarrhea, abdominal pain, headache, vomiting, chills, and no energy! We have been so miserable! I have never experienced anything like this before. You start to feel better and then it hits you again. It comes in waves. I went to my doctor and she said it is gastroenteritis. We are eating the BRAT diet because anything spicy or normal will bring it right back. Lots of gatorade watered down because you feel dehydrated all the time. Eating small meals and drinking a little at a time helps. It is strange, you feel hungry but then when you eat you feel like crap again. We were doing yogurt in the beginning but now I am avoiding all dairy. It seems to make it worse. Lots of chicken noodle soup, crackers, bananas, ginger ale, etc. Hang in there everyone. That is all you can do!

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  27. mary says:

    Hi,
    I live in Mass on the NH border, out of nowhere last Thursday, I felt dizzy/lightheaded so I laid down, within in a few minutes, the watering mouth stuff started and the vomiting started. That last for 1/2 hour but since then I’ve been nausous, pain off and on and lightheaded. This sucks, not eating doesn’t help, and eating is so no good.
    Calling the dr today

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  28. Luis says:

    I am in Kuwait deployed and I have had the stomach flu for 3 days now. Day 1 started with diarrhea right before bed. I woke up at 4am the next morning and went to work feeling very weak. By 7am My muscles were aching and had an ill feeling. I vomited by 10 am and had to leave work. I felt very exhausted and weak. I constantly had bathroom runs which lasted all throughout the day. I stopped eating solid foods and drank very little. I had a lot of bed rest. Day 2, I didn’t go to work and rested. I was very hungry, but stayed on a minimal liquid diet. Water and flat ginger ale. I am starting to feel better, but still have to run to the toilet. The crackers helped out a lot, but I am still hungry. I hope when I go to work tomorrow that I will be able to make it. So lots of rest and regulated fluids have helped me break this flu. Hope my experience helps out others. Good luck!

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  29. michael says:

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  30. Tee says:

    I am in Wisconsin and it sounds like I have what all of you have or had! It is now Friday and I have had it since Monday. Started out with diarrhea. I took Imodium because I did not know that I was coming down with the flu and had to take my pre schooler to his meet and greet because his first day of school was on Tuesday. Later that evening I developed a rather high fever of 104.6. The next day I had some nausea..but not too much. By Wednesday the fever was gone but the nausea and the diarrhea continue still. It is now Friday. The worst part is the horrible BURNING and cramping and HORRIBLE gas pains that I am having. They have been keeping me up at night..and get a LOT worse if I try to eat something. Plus now I am SOO SOOO hungry..but as soon as I eat something..the burning and gas..UUUUGH! Anyway. My 3.5 year old has this as well. His lasted only 24 hours and all he had was diarrhea. Sounds like this is some NASTY bug that is going around!

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  31. ellie says:

    This started Friday with sharp pains in my back of all places and I just didn’t feel good. Then I did vomit, but stayed in work thinking nothing of it. A few hours later I started to feel horrible and after I got home I vomited for about 6-8 hours non stop.
    Continuted till Sunday off and on with my stomach and back hurting so bad I couldn’t stand up straight. Weird I haven’t been this ill in years, and would not wish it on my worst enemy. It is now Tuesday feeling a bit better but still sick. Just waiting to feel better.

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  32. Claire says:

    I haven’t been able to eat for 2 days because of the stomach flu….having diarrhea constantly, but if there’s no food or liquid in my system where is the diarrhea coming from?

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  33. Louis says:

    I just recently got over the stomach flu. Best thing for my nausea was room-temp ginger ale. It creates a base with all that acid in your stomach which is making you want to chunga. good carbonation(ginger-ale)+ acid= no more vomiting. Oh, and Claire, remember that your body is made up of mostly water, thats were its coming from. When you you have diarrhea your body is loosing all of those electrolites and stopping you from staying hydrated, best thing to do is have plenty of gatorade handy. Little sips at a time…

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  34. Stephen says:

    I am slowly getting over my Valentine’s Day stomach flu. I knew something was wrong when I went to bed knowing my stomach just felt ‘off’. I tried throwing up but couldn’t and went to sleep. Two hours later my stomach woke me up, and did it ever. I took some pepto-bismol tablets knowing what was going to happen next. Pepto seems to cut down the acidic feel of the vomit and doesn’t seem to irritate my throat as bad. Felt like it all wanted to come out at once! Over the next four hours nothing short of hell. The entire day felt horrible. I felt super achy all over, would get a head-ache after any activity, and had zero energy. Seemed to take all of my will just to get up to use the bathroom. Started with some ginger ale which seemed to help. I ended up throwing that up too unfortunately. I blame myself for drinking too much too soon, but was super thirsty. (I must admit those rounds of throwing up of just liquid weren’t as bad). I eventually sipped water and Gatorade. I finally felt hungry about 36 hours after V-day (Vomit Day)tried a few sips of a protein shake just to get some protein in my system. Have started back to small portions of bread and did have a little of a turkey sandwich. I took a couple of hot baths that seemed to help the aches. It was just tough to dry off and get dressed without energy. I’ve sweated through numerous clothes and sheets. I’m just hoping it calms down so I can feel normal again. I feel for you people. Rest. Sleep. Stay home. Stay warm. Small sips of water, Gatorade, or ginger ale. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

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  35. emily says:

    I have the same thing! My symptoms came on rather fast,I first felt very dehydrated like I couldn’t get enough to drink so I drank a lot of water..and then my stomache started growling so I thought I may be hungary..I ate..about a half hour later my stomache hurt so bad I tried to lay down..then got up and ran to the toilet. I am currently on day 3. The vomiting lasted about 2 days..and the diahrea hasn’t stopped. I’m now able to drink some gatorade..but I still can’t eat anything because I’m still very nauseas. It literaly feels like my stomach is seperated into two. Worst feeling ever. have also had a slight fever & chills. Hopefully everyone feels better.

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