Stomach Flu: Symptoms and Treatment

It feels awful and embarrassing to be hit by stomach flu, especially as there is no cure. The best way to deal with it is to let it run its course. But first, see your doctor and take a prescription anti-diarrhoea medicine. Antibiotics may kill a stomach bug, but with a stomach viral you need to take plenty of fluids and lots of rest. Here are some remedies can help you feel better faster when you’re hit by a stomach viral infection.


Is it different from the common flu virus and getting a stomach bug?

Stomach flu is the common name for gastroenteritis. It is different from the common cold or flu virus (influenza). Flu only affects your respiratory tract, nose, and lungs. Stomach virus infections attack your digestive health, particularly the intestines.

What may seem surprising is that both types of flu are contagious. You are contagious starting from the moment you’re infected. That includes 1 to 3 days before symptoms appear, until 2 weeks post recovery. Avoid going to work or school for at least 24 hours after symptoms of your stomach virus infection go away.

The symptoms are similar to diarrhoea caused by bacteria. That is why most people confuse the two. Viral diarrhoea and regular diarrhoea (caused by bacteria like E. coli, parasites, Clostridium difficile, and salmonella) are fundamentally very different, requiring different treatments.


What are the symptoms of stomach flu?

The first signs are chills, fever and nausea, which soon turns into vomiting, diarrhoea, and body aches and pains. Usually, symptoms appear one to three days after exposure to the virus. And, stomach flu ranges from mild to severe. The good news is the symptoms usually last just a day or two.

Here’s a list of stomach virus symptoms:

  • Watery diarrhoea
  • Stomach pain and abdominal cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Occasional muscular aches and pains
  • Low fever


How do you deal with a stomach virus attack?

1. Fluids: Drink plenty of mineral water, sports drinks and ginger tea. Try drinking anything that calms your stomach down. But, avoid caffeine, chocolate and alcohol.

2. BRAT (Bland) diet: Eat bland foods your system can digest easily. Try eating white rice, white bread, bananas, and applesauce. BRAT diet foods are binding, low in fibre and they help stop the diarrhoea.

3. Foods to avoid: Dairy, fibrous foods, oily and spicy curries or chillies.

4. Get plenty of rest: The best road to recovery is by just getting enough sleep and rest.

5. Medicate cautiously: Antibiotics do not help cure viral conditions. Take over the counter meds carefully, if you must. Your doctor may prescribe an anti-diarrhoea or anti-vomit medicine.

6. Avoid spreading it: Stomach flu is very contagious, so wash hands with soap and water, and clothes that you come in contact with.


When do you call your doctor?

Normally, the signs of stomach flu last for a couple of days max. But sometimes the symptoms can last for 10 days.

If the following symptoms of stomach flu persist, you should see your doctor:

  • Fever of 104F (40C) or above
  • When you cannot keep liquids down for 24 hours
  • You are vomiting for more than 2 days
  • There is blood in your vomit
  • You notice blood in your stool or diarrhoea
  • You are very dehydrated – little or no urine, excessive thirst, severe weakness, or dizziness.


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