Stomach flu is a condition where the gastrointestinal tract is inflamed usually as a result of consuming contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Your body will get rid of stomach flu on its own, but there are a few things you can do to give your body what it needs to fight the flu and make yourself feel better in the meantime.
Causes of Stomach Flu
Stomach flu is usually caused by bacteria, a parasite or a virus which can spread rapidly by contaminated food or water.
Stomach flu viruses include adenovirus, calcivirus, rotavirus, astrovirus and norovirus. They can be spread by using and touching contaminated things like door knobs, light switches, utensils, keyboards, and anything we touch in common.
Symptoms of Stomach Flu
Symptoms of stomach flu are experienced at least four hours after infection. The symptoms include:
- Funny taste in the mouth
- Fever that is 101 degrees F. or higher
- Bloating or gas
- Abdominal cramps
How to Get Rid of Stomach Flu
1. Drink Lots of Fluids
The biggest risk associated with stomach flu is dehydration. As a result, the most important thing you can do to help your body get rid of stomach flu is to keep yourself hydrated as much as possible.
- Drink lots of fluids, including sports drinks, water and electrolyte solutions that are very important. The electrolyte solutions can be purchased at pharmacies.
- Take in minimal fluid amounts after every half hour or one hour. Forcing too much fluid can induce vomiting causing more dehydration.
- Avoid alcohol, fruit juice including apple juice, acidic fluids like orange juice, caffeine and milk. You should also avoid flat or bubbly cola or sodas. They contain too much sugar that worsens the diarrhea without replacing minerals.
Drinking too much plain water as you recover can dilute the few electrolytes still in your system, so try to include an oral electrolyte solution in your drinking routine as you fight stomach flu. In addition to a loss of water, you are also losing sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes. An electrolyte solution can help replace some of those lost minerals, as well.
2. Eat Bland Foods
As soon as your stomach feels ready to take on solid foods again, you should begin eating to restore any lost nutrients.
- Eat foods that do not require too much digestion. This will ease the stomach irritation. These foods include BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apples and toast).
- Ensure that foods are offered in small quantities often. Some foods you can eat include bread, cereals, lean meat, potatoes, fresh apples, plain yogurt and vegetables.
- Avoid uncomfortable or irritating foods such as spicy foods, fatty foods and chips.
3. Use Home Remedies
Take ginger. Ginger contains anti-inflammatory agents, which aid in digestion and nausea. Ginger ale and ginger tea are the most often used treatments when battling a stomach virus.
- Make fresh ginger tea by boiling 2-4 slices of fresh ginger in 8 oz (250 ml) of water for 5-7 minutes. Let cool to a drinkable temperature and sip away.
- In addition to ginger beverages, you can also use ginger capsules and oils, usually available in health food stores or the supplement section of a drugstore.
Try cinnamon. Cinnamon is a powerful anti-bacterial that will destroy all the bacteria in your stomach. Studies has shown that cinnamon is one of the most effective substance against Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter.
Another study found that cinnamaldehyde from cinnamon in its various forms is effective against adenovirus.
The easiest and most effective method is to boil cinnamon sticks. If you have no Cinnamon sticks you can use Cinnamon powder.
- Boil a cup of water and add one teaspoon of Cinnamon powder.
- Let it brew for 5 minutes, strain with a cheese cloth or fine strainer to get rid of the cinnamon powder residue mix.
- Add a teaspoon of honey and drink it.
Soothe your stomach with peppermint tea. Peppermint has numbing properties and reduces spasms in the stomach that lead to vomiting and soothes the overall digestive tract.
- You can take peppermint internally by sipping on peppermint tea, or chewing on a clean peppermint leaf.
- Herbal peppermint teas can be found in the store, or you can make your own fresh tea by boiling a few leaves in 8 oz (250 ml) of water for five to seven minutes.
Place a warm towel on your stomach. If your stomach muscles have begun cramping up, a warm towel on your stomach might be able to soothe the pain.
- Relaxing cramping stomach muscles can ease the symptoms of stomach flu.
- If you have a high fever, however, this treatment can cause your temperature to climb further and should be avoided.
4. Rest and Sleep
As with any illness, rest is a valuable remedy. Resting allows your body to devote more of its resources to getting rid of stomach flu. While it may be tempting, avoid taking sleep aids when still unwell or vomiting. You should also avoid sleeping when lying on your back.
Medications for Stomach Flu
Certain indigestion medications may help you get rid of stomach flu. Some common medications include Pepcid, Maalox, and Pepto Bismol. These medications will only truly help if you are experiencing indigestion, acid reflux, or excess gas, but they can also help calm your stomach.
- Avoid taking pain medications, as these can further upset and damage your stomach lining.
If none of the non-prescription medications or immediate home remedies are easing your symptoms, consider contacting a doctor and obtain prescription-strength medication.
- Commonly prescribed medications for reducing vomiting include Phenergan, Compazine and Zofran. They are often prescribed as suppositories or administered through an IV to avoid the possibility of the patient vomiting the pills after taking them.
- To reduce diarrhea, your doctor may prescribe Lomotil or Imodium.
How to Prevent Stomach Flu
Clean kitchen and bathroom surfaces daily. Use a chlorine bleach-based cleaner to sterilize countertops in your home and avoid bacteria from spreading.
Avoid undercooked and raw foods. These foods have a higher ability to spread the stomach flu virus. Meats are especially prone to carrying the virus. Consume undercooked and raw meats and other foods with extreme caution.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consuming to remove any outstanding bacteria from the outside of the produce.
- Do not drink untreated water or unpasteurized milk when possible. Untreated or unpasteurized waters can carry illness-inducing bacteria and viruses. Only drink from sealed bottles and use bottled water to brush your teeth when you are travelling.
Practice good hygiene. Always wash your hands after going to the bathroom, visiting public spaces, before and after eating, and whenever deemed appropriate throughout the day. Be sure to wash any clothing items, bedding, and/or washable toys that come into contact with an infected individual to avoid spreading the virus.
Avoid touching your face throughout the day. Over the course of a day, the average person often comes into direct contact with bacteria and viruses that have the potential to cause sickness. Be sure to avoid touching your face, especially orifices such as your mouth, nose, eyes, and ears as much as possible throughout the day. Be sure to wash your hands before touching your face if possible.
- Common symptoms of gastroenteritis can also be indicators of more serious gastrointestinal diseases.
- As uncomfortable as it may be, do not try to hold in or fight your symptoms. It will do more harm than good. Let it happen, and it will provide relief for your body.
- If there is ever any blood or mucus in your diarrhea or vomit, or diarrhea or vomiting lasts for more than three days, see a doctor immediately.
- If vomiting and diarrhea has not gotten somewhat better after 48 hours, seek medical attention.
- You should also seek medical attention if you experience high fever or spot any blood or pus in your stools.