How to get rid of a stomach virus

Taking ginger for stomach spasms? You can find the fresh root in the produce section of the grocery store: This is what ginger root looks like. Image by Fastily

Taking ginger for stomach spasms? You can find the fresh root in the produce section of the grocery store: This is what ginger root looks like. Image by Fastily

They’re calling it a SuperBug.

This year’s stomach flu, also known as viral gastroenteritis, is having a wide impact this year, affecting most families – even Queen Elizabeth caught the norovirus in early March.

Sometimes, the stomach cramps and pain are the worst part about the stomach flu.

Is there anything you can do to ease this symptom of the norovirus that’s hitting so hard this year?

When a stomach bug hits, steer clear of these four common mistakes:

Not offering her sufficient fluids

Bad idea: You wait for hours to give your child something to drink after an episode of vomiting or diarrhoea.

Right move: “If you’re still breastfeeding, encourage it as often as possible,” says Ann. Breast milk contains substances that destroy many of the microorganisms that cause diarrhoea. Avoid forcing your child to drink large volumes of liquids all at once, as this might cause more vomiting. Start with a single teaspoon of water or an electrolyte drink (such as Rehidrat) or chipped ice every 15 minutes. Younger babies can have small amounts of fluid syringed into their mouths every 10 to 20 minutes.

ALSO SEE: Is my baby dehydrated? Look out for these signs

Giving your child too much sugar and dairy products

Bad idea: Your child is keeping down liquids so you offer her juice or cow’s milk.

Right move: “Since a baby with diarrhoea may develop a temporary lactose intolerance, consider switching to a lactose-free formula if she’s not on breast milk,” advises Heidi. The lactose in dairy products can irritate the stomach lining and cause bloating and cramps, so if your little one is on solids, avoid cow’s milk and cheese for a day or two. Also avoid sugary liquids such as colas, fruit juices and athletic drinks, as these contain fructose which can irritate the stomach and worsen the diarrhoea. Stick to water and lactose-free formula or breast milk until the stomach bug subsides.

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Buying over-the-counter medication to stop diarrhoea

Bad idea:  You want your child to feel better, so you rush to the pharmacy and buy whatever you can to stop the stomach bug.

Right move: Never give your child any medicine to stop the diarrhoea unless your doctor approves it, as some can have serious side effects and be harmful to young children, says Heidi. Even though medications such as Imodium and Kaopectate often help adults, Dr Vincent Iannelli, paediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Paediatrics, agrees that these aren’t safe for babies or children under six. “The only method beyond fluids and preventing dehydration that’s considered helpful for children is acidophilus, a type of good bacteria found in yoghurt.  If you want to try this, add some good-quality, plain yoghurt with acidophilus to your child’s diet, but it’s important to speak to your doctor first,” he adds.

ALSO SEE: 7 all-natural tissue salt remedies for sick kids

Keeping your child on a liquid diet for too long

Bad idea:  You’re worried the stomach bug will flare up again, so you keep your child on liquids only.

Right move: Although it’s not a good idea to push solid foods too soon (especially if your child is vomiting), the faster she can resume her regular eating pattern, the better, says Heidi. For the first day or two, starchy foods, such as mashed banana, white rice, cereal, potatoes, pasta and dry white toast, are all good choices, but it’s important to introduce small amounts of protein, such as white fish and chicken, as soon as your little one is feeling better. These foods contain vital nutrients, which will help to speed up recovery. Stay away from fatty, spicy foods for a while.

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When to call the doctor:

Your child’s tummy issues will probably get better within a few days, but call your doctor right away if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Your newborn is vomiting and has less than five to six wet diapers a day.
  • Your child is listless, with glazed eyes or dry, wrinkly skin.
  • She has a high fever above 38˚C.
  • You notice a serious loss of appetite that lasts a few days.
  • She has dry mucous membranes (mouth and eyes).

ALSO SEE: 3 natural tummy ache remedies for sick kids

For more information or to book a consult with Sr Ann Richardson, visit or call 011 465 3480.


  • childhood illnesses
  • common childhood infections
  • family health

Stomach Cramps: How Long Will They Last?

So how long will you feel bad with the stomach flu and cramps? According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, symptoms appear within 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to the virus and you can expect to feel better within one to three days. While waiting it out, is there anything you can do to help ease the cramps? Ginger and peppermint are two herbs that might be able to help.

  • Ginger: In China, the people have used ginger to treat diarrhea and nausea for over 2,000 years. Ginger comes in different forms, from the actual ginger root to capsules, oils, and food and drinks that contain ginger. Researchers have studied the use of ginger, finding that it can help with nausea and vomiting that come with everything from pregnancy to chemotherapy. For those with the stomach flu, science affirmed in 2005 that ginger calms stomach cramps and spasms.
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Peppermint helps soothe the muscles of the stomach. Photo by: Gürkan Sengün

Peppermint helps soothe the muscles of the stomach, relieving stomach cramps. Photo by: Gürkan Sengün

  • Peppermint: You can use peppermint to provide a numbing and calming effect. Peppermint comes in a variety of forms such as teas, dried or fresh leaves from the plant, and capsules. Research has found that peppermint can reduce gastric spasms as well. 

If you or a family member does get the dreaded stomach flu, there are steps you can take to make the symptoms less severe and keep dehydration at bay.

  • Be sensible about what you’re eating. Dairy, fatty foods, or greasy foods may all make symptoms worse, not better. A bland diet is recommended for the first few days, but don’t overdo it when you start putting back in the foods you love.
  • Give small amounts of fluid:
    • For babies: about 1 tablespoon of oral electrolyte solution every 15-20 minutes; shorter but more frequent breastfeeding
    • For kids: 1-2 tbsp. every 15 minutes of oral electrolyte solution, ice chips, flat ginger ale or lemon-lime soda, clear broth, ice pops, or diluted juice — even grape juice.
    • If your child vomits again, wait 20-30 minutes and start over.
  • Transition to mild, easy-to-digest food after about 8 hours without vomiting. Think rice, applesauce, and toast.
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