getting through stomach flu: the basics

What is stomach flu?

Stomach flu, officially known as viral gastroenteritis, refers to swelling or inflammation of the stomach and intestines and can lead to diarrhoea and vomiting.1 A variety of viruses are esponsible for the stomach flu, which may also cause abdominal pain, fever, chills, muscle pain or joint stiffness.1 In general, symptoms begin around 24‐48 hours after infection with a virus and may lastfor 1‐10 days, depending on which virus caused the illness.2 It is spread through close contact with infected persons as well as eating or drinking contaminated food or beverages.2

How can stomach flu be managed?

The most important way to manage stomach flu in children and adults is to prevent severe loss of fluids which may lead to dehydration.2 This can be achieved by:
  • Drinking small amounts of fluid every 30‐60 minutes. Avoid forcing large amounts of fluid at one time which can cause vomiting. Use a spoon or oral syringe for infants or small children.1 Sucking on ice‐cubes may also help if vomiting is a problem.3
  • Using oral rehydration preparations with a balanced solution of glucose and electrolytes for rapid rehydration and recovery. Specialised electrolyte ice‐blocks may be preferable for kids.
To help relieve symptoms and assist with recovery it is also recommended to:
  • Gradually reintroduce food starting with bland, easy to digest foods like rice, potatoes, toast or bread, lean meat and bananas.3
  • Avoid fatty foods, sugary foods, dairy products, caffeine and alcohol until recovery is complete.3
  • Get plenty of rest.3

Seek medical advice if diarrhoea or vomiting persists for longer than:

  • 6 hours in infants under 6 months
  • 12 hours in children under 3 years
  • 24 hours in children aged 3‐6 years
  • 48 hours in adults and children over 6 years