Monday, April 22, 2024

What To Do If You Have The Stomach Flu

What Is Viral Gastroenteritis

Mayo Clinic Minute: What is ‘stomach flu?

Viral gastroenteritis is a type of gastroenteritis â a common condition sometimes called stomach flu or food poisoning. Gastroenteritis is the result of irritation and inflammation in the stomach and intestines. It can be caused by infection with a virus such as rotavirus, bacteria or parasites, among other things. When caused by a virus, it is called viral gastroenteritis. While it can be very unpleasant, most cases of viral gastroenteritis can be treated at home, and clear up within a few days without causing complications.

Symptoms of viral gastroenteritis can range from mild to severe and vary among people. However, the main symptoms are typically vomiting and mild fever, which develop quickly, followed by watery diarrhea for a few days.

Viral gastroenteritis can be caused by a number of different types of viruses, including rotavirus, norovirus and adenovirus. The viruses can be transmitted direct from one person to another or spread through contaminated food and water. Depending on the source of infection, a large group of people may develop viral gastroenteritis at the same time, e.g. an outbreak on a cruise ship or at a summer camp.

Treatment for viral gastroenteritis typically involves:

  • Resting at home
  • Drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration
  • When necessary, taking medication to relieve nausea and diarrhea

Whats The Difference Between Stomach Flu Food Poisoning And Seasonal Flu

Stomach flu isnt the same thing as food poisoning, which often occurs within hours of ingesting a contaminated substance. Food poisoning has similar symptoms to stomach flu. Symptoms of food poisoning usually last for one to two days.

Stomach flu isnt the same as seasonal flu, which causes coldlike symptoms that typically last one to two weeks.

Prevention For Food Poisoning

Food poisoning generally isnt contagious, though some forms can be spread through contact with an infected bodily fluid .

Even though it usually doesnt spread from person to person, there are still steps you can take to prevent food poisoning from occurring in the first place, including:

  • Wash your hands and work surfaces before, during, and after preparing food.
  • Cook food to the right internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria.
  • Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of cooking.

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When Should I Call The Doctor

  • cant drink for several hours
  • is peeing less often
  • has signs of dehydration, such as crying with few or no tears, having a dry mouth or cracked lips, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, acting very sleepy or less alert
  • has a high fever
  • has blood in their poop or vomit
  • is vomiting for more than 24 hours or the diarrhea doesnt get better after several days

Trusted Gastroenteritis Treatment In The Bay Area

What to Do When You Have the Stomach Flu

Most cases of stomach flu go away with home care measures within a couple of days. Gradually reintroduce food by starting with foods that are easy to digest. Examples include bananas, potatoes, rice, toast, and crackers. Severe cases of stomach flu may require treatment in a Dignity Health hospital. Stomach flu treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing dehydration. This means replacing electrolytes and drinking plenty of fluids. Sucking on ice chips or taking small sips of liquid can help when vomiting or nausea prevents drinking large amounts. Broths, rehydration solutions, and sports drinks are good choices. Avoid caffeinated drinks. Adults can use over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicines, but children should not. Antibiotics do not work on viruses, so they are not used in the treatment of stomach flu. The best way to prevent stomach flu is to wash your hands regularly, especially before eating and after using the bathroom. Talk to your Dignity Health doctor about ways to stay healthy and avoid the stomach flu. Dignity Health provides high-quality emergency care for stomach flu in the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.

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How Common Are They

Infections like food poisoning and the stomach flu are common. Each year in the United States, its estimated that 48 million people get food poisoning, and up to 21 million people get the stomach flu caused by norovirus. While many people quickly recover from these seemingly harmless illnesses, they cause thousands of ER visits and hospitalizations per year in the United States combined.

For Young Children And Babies

For young children, using an oral rehydration solution can help avoid or treat dehydration. ORS beverages, such as Pedialyte and Enfalyte, are available without a prescription.

They can be administered slowly, over a period of three to four hours, a few teaspoons at a time. Try giving your child one to two teaspoons, every five minutes. Babies can also be given ORS liquids via a bottle.

If youre breastfeeding, continue to offer your breast to your baby unless theyre vomiting repeatedly. Formula-fed babies can be given formula if they arent dehydrated and are able to keep fluids down.

If your baby has been vomiting, regardless of whether theyre breastfed, bottle-fed, or formula-fed, they should be offered small amounts of ORS liquids via bottle, 15 to 20 minutes after vomiting.

Dont give babies or children anti-diarrheal medication unless their doctor recommends it. These medications may make it harder for them to eliminate the virus from their systems.

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Is The Stomach Flu Worse In Some People

In general, most people recover quickly from the stomach flu. Symptoms can be worse in babies, young children, older adults or anyone of any age that is immune-compromised. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration within just a short period of time, depending on the circumstances. Signs of dehydration include:

  • Extreme thirst.
  • General weakness.

Urgent Advice: Get Advice From 111 Now If:

Stomach Flu
  • you’re worried about a baby under 12 months
  • your child stops breast or bottle feeding while they’re ill
  • a child under 5 years has signs of dehydration such as fewer wet nappies
  • you or your child still have signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets
  • you or your child keep being sick and cannot keep fluid down
  • you or your child have bloody diarrhoea or bleeding from the bottom
  • you or your child have diarrhoea for more than 7 days or vomiting for more than 2 days

111 will tell you what to do. They can arrange a phone call from a nurse or doctor if you need one.

Go to or call 111.

A GP may be able to help you.

Ask a GP surgery for an urgent appointment.

Check with the GP surgery before going in. A GP may speak to you on the phone.

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How Can You Stop Pooping Faster

Having diarrhea also means sticking to an all-liquid diet.

Usually any solid food is just going to make you have more diarrhea, says Dr. Masket. Your body is going to take that and throw it out, and also pull some fluids and salt with it. That can worsen your dehydration.

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Pick liquids that contain sugar and electrolytes to replace the fluid youre losing. Choose kinds like apple juice, clear broths, or sports drinks, and dilute any sugary drinks with water, since too much sugar can pull water from your gut and exacerbate diarrhea, says Dr. Borg.

When your squirts begin to improveand when you start to feel hungry you can graduate from clear liquids to bland foods.

Youll know youre on the mend when your stool firms up and your bathroom trips die down.

Thats when you can try foods like bananas, rice, applesauce, or crackers, which arent very taxing on your digestive system. But back off from bland foods for a couple hours if youre still logging toilet time.

If your first foray into solids was a success, you can continue gradually adding your normal foods back into your diet. Its also a good idea to avoid dairy products or high-fat or greasy foods for the entire duration of your sickness. These are more difficult to digest.

Related: 9 Foods You Should Never Eat When Youre Sick

How Is Stomach Flu Diagnosed

Healthcare providers often can diagnose stomach flu from your symptoms. But your provider may want to rule out other illnesses with some tests:

  • Stool samples: Tests look for bacteria, viruses or parasites in your stool
  • Sigmoidoscopy: A doctor inserts a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera from the anus into the lower large intestine to look for signs of inflammatory bowel disease. The sigmoidoscopy is a 15-minute procedure that doesnt usually require sedation.

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What Should You Do If You Think You Have The Stomach Flu

Stomach flu symptoms usually appear 12 to 48 hours after coming into contact with the virus or bacteria. Most cases of gastroenteritis infections will clear up on their own. In the meantime it is important to:

  • Stay hydrated try sipping water or broth slowly, or sucking on ice chips.
  • Avoid acidic drinks and caffeine.
  • Add bland food gradually as the body tolerates it.
  • Get lots of rest.
  • Stock up on pre-moistened wipes and reading material for the bathroomyoull be spending some quality time in there.

If vomiting and diarrhea continue more than a few days, or if you have bloody stools or symptoms of dehydration, its important to seek medical advice. Sometimes gastroenteritis can lead to other complications or is symptomatic of another underlying medical condition. Our urgent care doctors at Innovative Express Care will offer you sound medical advice and answer any questions or concerns We have IV fluids here, take insurance, and we have a very affordable IV fluid self-pay rate!

What Causes The Stomach Flu

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Gastroenteritis is usually caused by a virus in the stomach or intestines, but bacteria is sometimes the culprit. That leftover tuna that smelled a little off? Yep, should have tossed it. No matter if its bacterial or viral, the signs of a stomach bug are the same: nausea, abdominal pain and cramps, vomiting, loss of appetite and diarrhea. Other symptoms you might have are chills, sweats, fever or muscle pain. The first few days are usually the worst and then the symptoms tend to taper off. The enforced weight loss is a total bonus.

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Eat Drink And Do These With The Flu

Drink plenty of clear liquids

Wait until 2 hours have passed since your last episode of vomiting. Start with small frequent sips. Water, clear soda , herbal decaffeinated tea, broth or over-the-counter electrolyte replacements are great ways to avoid dehydration when you have a stomach flu with frequent diarrhea or vomiting.

Severe dehydration could mean a trip to the hospital to receive IV fluids, so its important to try to stay hydrated if you can, Dr. Lipold says. You may turn to the common ginger ale fix but again, stir or let it sit on the counter in an open container until the carbonation evaporates.

Eat complex carbohydrates

Potatoes and whole grains are your best choices to help replace nutrients you may have lost while vomiting or too many trips to the bathroom. Try lean meats without too much spice or condiments, which can upset your stomach more .

Suck on ice chips

If you cant keep anything else down, ice chips will help give you the hydration you likely need little by little over a longer time, but it may be better tolerated by your stomach, Dr. Lipold says.

See your physician

If you havent been able to keep liquids down for 24 hours, show signs of dehydration, are vomiting blood, have abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea or a fever above 102 F its time to visit your doctor, Dr. Lipold says.

What Are The Symptoms

Common symptoms of norovirus infection include vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping. Less common symptoms can include low-grade fever or chills, headache, and muscle aches. Symptoms usually begin 1 or 2 days after ingesting the virus, but may appear as early as 12 hours after exposure. The illness typically comes on suddenly. The infected person may feel very sick and vomit often, sometimes without warning, many times a day. Sometimes people infected with norovirus have no symptoms at all, but can still pass the virus to others.

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What Can I Do At Home To Feel Better

Get plenty of rest and keep drinking lots of liquids until your symptoms pass. Drinks that have both sugar and salt help your intestine absorb fluids better and replace the lost electrolytes. Nibbling salty crackers along with ginger ale or a similar sweet drink could also help. Avoid dairy products like cows milk for one or two days milk can make diarrhea worse due to temporary lactose intolerance that often come with gastroenteritis.

To control severe diarrhea, your healthcare provider may recommend an over-the-counter medication such bismuth subsalicylate . You shouldnt use these medicines if you have a high fever or bloody diarrhea, which can be signs of deeper infection from bacteria or a parasite. Antidiarrheal medications arent safe for children to use. Instead, see your healthcare provider for treatment.

Nearly everyone gets a bout of stomach flu at some point. Its not pleasant, but it usually passes in less than a week. Give yourself time to rest and recover before you go back to your daily activities. Fortunately you can take steps to avoid the likelihood of passing it on to others or picking it up again in the future.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/26/2020.


Know When To See A Healthcare Provider

The Best Way To Keep The Stomach Bug From Spreading, According To a Doctor

Most people with vomiting and diarrhea don’t need to see a healthcare provider. But it’s important to know when you do.

See your healthcare provider or seek medical attention if you have any these symptoms:

  • Vomiting longer than 24 hours
  • Blood in your vomit
  • Vomiting with severe headache and stiff neck
  • Signs of dehydrationdark or infrequent urine, dry mouth

Although most people recover from stomach bugs without medical treatment, sometimes these symptoms are caused by more serious problems that do require medical intervention.

Some people may become dehydrated from vomiting and having diarrhea. Some cases of dehydration need to be treated with medications or IV fluidseven if the cause is a simple stomach virus.

Also Check: What To Do For Severe Stomach Pain

Can Gastroenteritis Be Prevented

Germs that cause gastroenteritis are contagious. The best way to avoid the illness is to keep the germs from spreading:

  • Teach all family members to wash their hands well and often. They should wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. This is especially important after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food.
  • Clean tabletops, doorknobs, and other surfaces that get touched a lot with a cleaner that kills viruses.
  • Follow food safety guidelines to prevent bacteria and viruses from getting into food and drinks .
  • Make sure your kids get all recommended immunizations on time.

Everything You Need To Know About The Stomach Flu

Fun fact: the Stomach Flu isnt actually related to the flu virus at all.

The only commonality is that stomach bugs and the flu are both viruses. The stomach flu lasts anywhere from 1-10 days, depending on your immune system and the individual strain of the virus.

Unlike food poisoning, stomach bugs are usually not contracted via contaminated foods. You catch a stomach virus like you catch the flu by coming into contact with someone who is infected.

If youre aware someone has the stomach flu, youll want to take extra precautions to wash your hands after touching something an infected person has touched.

Try to refrain from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, as this is the easiest way to pass the virus on from the infected person to yourself.

Technically, you can catch a stomach virus. When this happens, its a similar effect to putting your hand in your mouth after touching an infected person.

Make sure to avoid sharing food and drinks with someone who has a stomach bug.

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How Can You Beat The Barf

After you puke up the contents of your morning breakfast, you may be tempted to immediately grab H2O to rehydrate.

Resist the urge: The number one problem Dr. Masket sees in norovirus patients is drinking too soon after an episode.

When you throw up, your stomach is really irritated, he explains. And the only thing that putting something in your belly is going to do is probably make you throw up again. And then youre going to get even more dehydrated.

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So follow his rule: Wait one full hour before taking in any liquid by mouth, which will allow your stomach time to calm down. Then start with just a sip of something like juice or a sports drink.

If your stomach doesnt rebel, follow with another sip 10 minutes later. Then keep following the 10-minute rule, gradually adding a little more fluid when you can tolerate it. And no solid foods until youve stopped hurling.

Best Foods To Eat When You Have A Stomach Bug

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Viral gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection marked by watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting and sometimes fever. It often is called a stomach bug or the stomach flu, but its not actually the flu or influenza, which is a respiratory illness. This infection often develops though contact with an infected person or by ingesting contaminated food or water.

An upset stomach is a common symptom of a stomach bug, and this can make eating sound unappealing, even though you may be hungry. Knowing what to eat is difficult because you dont always know whats going to agree with your stomach.

I recommend these tips for fueling your body when you have viral gastroenteritis:

The main complication of a stomach bug is dehydration a severe loss of water, and essential salts and minerals. If youre healthy and drink enough to replace fluids you lose from vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration shouldnt be a problem.

Shelly Frischmann is a Family Medicine nurse practitioner in Onalaska, Wisconsin.

For the safety of our patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was either recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in a non-patient care area where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.

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