Stomach Flu Treatment - Get Better Faster

Is there a good stomach flu treatment for when we get ill with this horrible affliction? It can feel as if we are struck down suddenly and one minute we feel fine and the next minute we are retching in the bathroom or unable to leave the toilet.

In fact this infection which is most often caused by a virus has probably been brewing for a couple of days but to us it seems to come on very quickly and we just want to get treated and get it over with.

If only we could pop a pill and it would all be over! Unfortunately as most cases of stomach flu or gastric flu as some of us call it are caused by viruses antibiotics will not work.

The best stomach flu treatment is rest and fluid replacement because the real danger with this illness is the havoc wreaked by dehydration. In the past and in the developing world today many people have died by becoming severely dehydrated through diarrhea and vomiting.

Fortunately this has become less common now because we have learnt the importance of replacement fluids. However people do still die from this illness especially the very young, the elderly or people who are already in ill health.

The First Rule of Stomach Flu Treatment - Keep Well Hydrated

What should I Drink?

Stomach Flu Symptoms - Sports Drink

It is important if you have a fever, diarrhea and vomiting to replace the fluids that you are losing but also the salts and sugars.

Good options for adults and teenagers are sports drinks because they have the right amounts of salt and sugar in them.These drinks like Gatorade, Powerade and Lucozade Sport are formulated to rehydrate athletes that are sweating due to heavy exercise and they contain salts and sugars close to the natural levels in our bodies (isotonic).

Children, babies and adults who are severely ill should be given specially formulated oral rehydration fluids. In addition babies should continue with their normal feeds as far as possible with a short rest after they have vomited.

Adults can have water and a snack which contains salt if they do not have other drinks at home.

If you are vomiting then try taking small sips. Do not gulp down your drinks. Try using a straw and suck on ice or ice pops.

Ginger tea is a good choice between saltier drinks as it replaces fluid and ginger helps to reduce nausea. For a recipe see my page on diarrhea remedies.

Beef and chicken broth are good as they replace salts.

It is important to be alert for signs of dehydration and if they are discovered then medical advice should be sought especially in the case of babies, children, the elderly or people with ill health.

If the dehydration cannot be sorted out quickly then hospital admission is sometimes necessary so that replacement fluids can be given via a drip.

For more information on how to recognize and treat dehydration please see this article.

What Should I Avoid Drinking?

Stomach Flu Treatment - Cola

You should not drink fluids high in sugar like fruit juices (unless diluted with 3/4 water), energy drinks and fizzy sugary drinks like cola because these often make diarrhea worse.

Avoid drinks like coffee, strong tea and alcohol as they are diuretic and will make dehydration worse. Also these drinks can make it hard to sleep and part of stomach flu treatment is rest.




What Should I Eat?

You may be wondering which are the best foods for stomach flu treatment. It is common when you have stomach flu to lose your appetite and if you are vomiting you may not feel like eating however if you do want to eat then it is good to start with small portions of foods from the brat diet for the first couple of days. This includes banana, rice, applesauce and toast.

Stomach Flu Treament - Toast

Children and babies should as far as possible continue with their normal diet alongside any stomach flu treatment but it can be a good idea to include some foods from the brat diet.

If they are vomiting then prioritize fluids over food as dehydration is the biggest danger but get them back eating again as soon as possible. 

For more information and recipe ideas see here.


What Should I Avoid Eating?

Avoid foods which are fatty, spicy and milk based. So no hamburgers, milkshakes, bacon or curries not that you will probably feel like it!

Stomach Flu Treatment - Hamburger

How Much Rest Should I Get?

An important stomach flu treatment is to get enough rest. When your body is fighting off an infection it is very busy! It does not have the time or energy for other things, so do not feel guilty about being in bed or lying on the sofa.

You should not be out and about anyway as you will find that you need to be near the bathroom and you do not want to pass your infection on to other people.

Do not start to do anything even remotely energetic until you are completely recovered. So no excercise. That new fitness regime will have to wait until another day!

Medication for Stomach Flu Treatment

It is very important to be careful which medications you take when you have stomach flu.

You may be tempted to take painkillers to help with stomach cramps, muscle aches and to reduce your temperature but be careful what you take. Avoid ibuprofen and aspirin as they can cause irritation to the stomach which is not what you want when you already have a very sensitive gut.

Stick to acetaminophen/paracetamol also commonly known by the brand names Tylenol or Panadol.

It is possible to buy over the counter anti-diarrhea medicines which will slow down or stop your diarrhea like loperamide hydrochloride but this is not really a good stomach flu treatment as you are having diarrhea because your body is trying to get rid of the virus from your system. You should not really be trying to make this harder.

If your nausea or vomiting is very bad then there are anti-emetic (anti-vomiting) medications available. In most countries these will have to be prescribed by your doctor.

Stomach Flu Treatment with Probiotics

Probiotics are good bacteria and yeasts which help protect us against the bad bugs which make us ill. 

It has been found that certain strains of probiotics can reduce the duration of diarrhea when you have acute gastroenteritis by 1-2 days and they can reduce the level of shedding of the virus in the stools. In other words you would be less contagious following the infection. They also reduced the risk of prolonged diarrhea which can happen to some people after a stomach flu infection.

The studies that have been done have mainly looked at children with only a few trials in adults. The strains of probiotics that have proved the most effective are Lactobacillus GG and Saccharomyces Boulardii although many other strains have yet to be tested and so could be effective stomach flu treatments.

This means that taking these probiotic supplements could reduce the length of time that you are ill and make it less likely that you will pass on your infection to other people so they would make a good stomach flu treatment to add into the mix.

Be Prepared

When you have stomach flu you will be laid low for a good two to three days when you will not be able to do much and a few days after that in the recovery period. It makes sense to get everything to hand that you need.

Either get a willing boyfriend/girlfriend or wife/husband or other family member or friend to go shopping for you. It is even better (in case that person is contagious) to get things delivered so that you have enough fluids, snacks, cleaning materials and toilet paper to last until you are better.

Vomiting and diarrhea can strike so fast that you do not even have time to finish the sentence so make sure that when you are treating stomach flu you have everything to hand.

It is preferable to vomit into the toilet so that it can be immediately flushed away but keep a bucket next to you in case you don't make it!

Wear loose clothing so that you can quickly undress when you get to the bathroom and do not wear your best outfit as accidents do happen.

Wet wipes are always useful but be careful about flushing them. Some plumbing systems can cope with them but I never flush them as I am fed up with having to get out the drain rods! Also the water companies may not approve of having them in their system as unless they are specially made to flush they will not degrade fast enough.

Protect Your Nearest and Dearest

When we are in the throws of stomach flu we are not always thinking straight because we are ill, in pain and often have a fever but we should try and take a minute to think about how we can stop other people ending up in the situation we are in.

Stomach flu is highly contagious and will spread like a fire in the Australian bush if we do not take precautions. So:

  • Wash your hands very carefully after every visit to the bathroom and every change of a diaper or nappy. See photos on the best technique here.
  • Wear gloves if you are cleaning up after somebody who has stomach flu
  • Do not share things like towels and wash cloths
  • Clean up vomit or diarrhea using paper towels and tie securely into a plastic bag
  • Wash clothing, bedding and towels on a high temperature
  • Clean down surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom with a bleach based cleaner
  • Clean the toilet using bleach and make sure the lid is down when you flush
  • Do not make food for other people if you have stomach flu or for at least 48 hours after you have recovered
  • Keep away from other people as much as you can

Stomach Flu Treatment - Getting Better

Normally stomach flu will last for 1-3 days depending on which virus you have contracted. This can be a bit longer in children who have rotavirus.

The important thing to remember though is that after stomach virus treatment even when you are feeling better you will normally still be shedding the virus in your stool. This means that you must be extra careful about hand hygiene and you should avoid doing the cooking.

Oh well there are not many upsides to getting the stomach flu but at least you might get out of one of the household chores!

DiarrheaNurse hopes that you get better quickly but remember that if you are not improving or you see signs of dehydration then get medical advice. Do this much more rapidly if a baby, child or elderly person is ill.

Do not just go to the hospital without telephoning first as you will be highly contagious.

For more information about the symptoms of stomach flu please see the article below.

Stomach Flu Symptoms -When Will They Stop?

Find out how long your stomach flu will last and which symptoms give the game away.

Go to Stomach Flu Symptoms - When Will They Stop?


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