Stomach flu can go by several different names, but it is almost always uncomfortable. Mom may call it the flu, and it is caused by a virus, but it is not caused by the influenza virus, according to the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Doctors use the name gastroenteritis to describe this uncomfortable and contagious stomach condition. Medline Plus names viral gastroenteritis as the second most common illness in the United States.
Stop eating and drinking for a few hours after the symptoms first appear. This will allow a little time for the stomach to settle. Wait only a few hours before attempting to drink fluids, however, because viral gastroenteritis can cause vomiting and diarrhea to the point of dehydration. Medical attention should be sought if a person cannot take in as much fluid as he is losing to diarrhea and vomiting.
Eat and drink clear liquids. Start with a few sips, then increase intake as tolerated. A clear liquid is something that turns to a fluid you can see through when it is at room temperature. Examples of clear liquids would be apple juice, water, ice chips, popsicles, gelatin and broth soup with no crackers. Drink Gatorade to balance electrolytes, which helps ward off dehydration.
Rest in a quiet environment and try to get extra sleep. Since a stomach virus is highly contagious, you should not leave the house anyway.
Take over-the-counter medication to relieve the symptoms of a stomach virus, such as ibuprofen for headache. Be aware that antibiotics are not effective in treating viral gastroenteritis.
Eat and drink full liquids if your body tolerates clear liquids well. Full liquids include cream soups with no meat or vegetables, vegetable juice and some types of cooked cereal.
Eat soda crackers to absorb excess stomach acids, which will reduce nausea. Eating soda crackers is a good way to test the stomach to see if it is ready to return to a normal diet.
Avoid dairy products, alcohol, caffeine or spicy foods until all symptoms have subsided, according to the Mayo Clinic. These foods and beverages may upset the stomach and delay healing.
Wait for up to 10 days for the symptoms to subside. If the diarrhea and vomiting do not clear on their own after 10 days, the problem may not be a stomach virus and you should seek medical attention.
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Wash your hands frequently to avoid catching viruses.
If other symptoms accompany the nausea and vomiting, such as a rash, abdominal pain or very high fever, see a doctor immediately.