Stomach flu is an intestinal infection that can cause a lot of pain. Here's what you need to know to get proper stomach flu treatment.
November 25, 2019
Millions of people get the stomach flu each year in the United States. Symptoms come on quickly and can include watery diarrhea, pain or cramping in your abdomen, to nausea, vomiting and sometimes fever. Known as viral gastroenteritis, stomach flu is a highly contagious intestinal infection that is unfortunately not affected by normal flu vaccines.
Although difficult to deal with, stomach flu typically goes away in a few days without any further complications. However for infants, the elderly, and people with weakened immune symptoms, the stomach flu can be dangerous. There is no specific treatment for stomach flu, so it’s important to stay hydrated and rest while allowing the flu to run its course. There are however, some at-home remedies that can lessen symptoms and make things slightly easier (Source: 1).
Although the stomach flu, or viral gastroenteritis is usually caused by a virus, it can also be caused by bacteria or even parasites. You can get viral gastroenteritis through contact with other infected people, or from contaminated food or water.
The following symptoms indicate the presence of stomach flu (Source: 2):
Although there is no specific treatment for the stomach flu, it’s important to stay hydrated as dehydration is the main complication of this illness. Also, don’t forget to rest and wash your hands frequently while allowing the flu to run its course. Doctors do not treat viral gastroenteritis with antibiotics. That’s because antibiotics treat infections that are caused by bacteria – not viruses.
While there is no quick remedy besides to let the flu run its course, there are some simple steps you can take to lessen symptoms and have an easier time. We recommend the following methods for at-home treatment of stomach flu (Source: 3):
Try sucking on ice chips or sipping water and electrolyte-infused liquids. Avoid any caffeinated sports drinks and try to stay hydrated.
Let Your Stomach Settle
This means stop eating any solid foods during the first few hours of symptoms and avoid eating foods with a lot of fat or sugar, which can make symptoms worse.
Ease Back Into Food
Only begin to eat again after you feel the vomiting and nausea has abated. After a few hours, evaluate if you can take some easy-to-digest foods such as crackers, toast, bananas, rice, and chicken. Avoid food if any nausea returns.
Stay Away From Certain Foods
Stay away from dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and fatty or highly seasoned foods. Anything that may upset your stomach lining is risky (Source: 4).
Get plenty of rest and avoid any strenuous exercise. You can get dehydrated even more easily in our hot and dry climate.
Be Careful with Medications
Medications that contain ibuprofen such as Advil, Motrin, and others should be avoided during symptoms. Others such as acetaminophen (used in Tylenol) should be used cautiously. On an empty stomach some of these drugs raise the risk of damaging the liver and stomach lining.
You should be able to start eating normally again within 24 to 48 hours of symptoms beginning. Start with simple foods such as crackers, toast, bananas, rice, applesauce or chicken. Depending on the cause, stomach flu symptoms may appear within one to three days after infection and can range from mild to severe. Symptoms usually last less than a day.
It’s vital to halt the spread of stomach flu if you have family members, friends, or coworkers who are exhibiting possible symptoms. Some preventative measures can be taken ahead of time in order to stop the spread of stomach flu. Precautions include (Source: 5):
Treatment for stomach flu involves continuing to monitor symptoms and hydration levels for the duration of sickness. Over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medication such as imodium or Pepto-Bismol can provide some short-term relief, but check with your primary care physician before taking any OTC medications.
Call your doctor or seek emergency care if you have:
For more information about stomach flu and possible treatment, contact Valleywise Health professionals. For serious symptoms or symptoms that last longer than three days, contact an emergency room near you and seek treatment as soon as possible.