Recognizing stomach flu symptoms

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Stomach flu is quite contagious and can be spread by direct person-to-person contact or contact with a surface or object recently touched or used by someone who already has the flu
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How will you know if you have the stomach flu?

Stomach flu is often described as intestinal flu or viral gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis is the medical description for inflammation of the stomach and the large and small intestines. This inflammation can be caused by a number of organisms or viruses. For that reason, most doctors suggest that you concentrate on treating the symptoms of stomach flu rather than trying to determine the exact cause. Because its cause is viral, antibiotics will not help.

The Viruses that Cause the Flu

Several viruses can produce stomach flu symptoms, and not everyone will display the same symptoms. Most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea and queasiness. These may be accompanied by headache, fever, feelings of weakness, all-over aches and pains, tiredness, stomach cramps and sometimes a sore throat and nasal congestion. 

Flu Can Last Three Days

Usually the most intense phases of the stomach flu last from one to three days. Onset can be as simple as feeling blah. You can feel both hungry and repulsed by food at the same time, experiencing episodes of queasiness and loss of appetite. If you suspect that you may have been exposed to stomach flu, follow your feelings and restrict your consumption to clear liquids until you are sure of what is happening.

An onset flu may be sudden with either vomiting or diarrhea. Children in particular may begin the stomach flu this way, since they are less likely than adults to ascribe more subtle symptoms to a cause. Remember that the flu is not necessarily more severe just because it begins dramatically. Vomiting and diarrhea are just ways that the body attempts to rid itself of an irritant.

Following that, children are likely to complain of feeling achy or tired. Tiredness is often related to the sudden dehydration experienced as a result of vomiting or diarrhea. Even though a child or adult may complain of thirst, it is important to treat vomiting or diarrhea by letting the digestive tract rest undisturbed for several hours. Sucking on an ice-cube may help clear the mouth of a foul taste or a thirsty feeling.


Rest tends to be a primary treatment for other stomach flu symptoms, because you're not feeling well and you don't want to infect others. Stomach flu is quite contagious and can be spread by direct person-to-person contact or contact with a surface or object recently touched or used by someone who already has the flu. Incubation tends to be short term. A child who comes home from school announcing that Maggie threw up is likely to show or not show stomach flu symptoms within 24 to 72 hours following the episode.

Stomach flu symptoms can be spread through coughing, sneezing and children putting fingers in their mouths as well as direct touch. This is one reason that the stomach flu seems to sweep through school classrooms so quickly. Children are more likely than adults to touch their faces and mouths and may not have the opportunity to wash their hands after sneezing or coughing.



Once the treatment of symptoms begins, both adults and children should begin to feel better within one or two days and return to normal eating within three to four days, proceeding cautiously with raw vegetables or fruit and any high-sugar, high-salt or high-fat snacks.

A repeat bout of vomiting or diarrhea suggests that a normal diet was resumed too soon and the flu victim needs another day or two of a bland, mostly liquid diet.

It is not surprising if it takes five or more days to return to feeling well with normal energy and appetite. One should seek medical advice during the following situations:

  • Lingering headache or fever, especially if not responding to analgesics

  • Continuing extreme tiredness or a feeling of not bouncing back

  • Ongoing vomiting or diarrhea

  • Increasing sore throat or nasal congestion

All of these symptoms suggest that you or your child is experiencing more than stomach flu symptoms. Check with your doctor and feel better soon!

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