You know the feeling of the stomach flu: the cramping, the cold sweats, the chills, and nausea. Then there’s the vomiting and diarrhea, with the fear of wandering too far from the bathroom in case one or the other, or sometimes both hits you at the same time.What is it? The stomach flu and something you dread getting every winter. What is commonly referred to as the stomach flu is not actually influenza at all, but viral gastroenteritis. Caused by a number of different viruses, it typically lasts 24 to 48 hours, but can linger up to 10 days. It’s associated with diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and often, a fever.Because the stomach flu is caused by a virus, there’s not a whole lot you can do to make it go away, other than treat the symptoms and keep your body as healthy and hydrated as possible in order to recover quickly Due to diarrhea and vomiting, having the stomach flu can quickly deplete your fluids, leaving you dehydrated. No matter how desperately you want to chug water, it’s important you take fluids slowly, so you don’t upset your stomach only to ignite another round of vomiting. Avoid coffees and sodas, and focus on clear fluids to replenish what you’re losing. Water, sports drinks, and clear broth are always good options.If you can’t keep fluids down, try sucking on a few ice chips to keep your mouth moistened and allow your body to absorb water. When it comes to eating when you have the stomach flu, you’ve got to focus on slow eating and bland foods. You want to only eat those things that are easy to digest. It’s generally recommended that you stick to bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast (BRAT) for the first 24 hours. If you can keep these foods down, slowly introduce other bland, mild foods, like lean meats, breads, fruits and vegetables.At Ask Dr. Nandi, we want you to be your own health hero and when you have the stomach flu, that means getting better as fast as you can.
- Drink rice water, the water left over from cooking brown rice; it’s extremely high in electrolytes.
- If you can’t handle the BRAT food, try crackers and pretzels; the sodium will help you retain water.
- Although recommendations are to generally avoid dairy, if you can handle it, the probiotics in yogurt will help balance your digestive system.
- For soothing your stomach, try herbal teas such as chamomile, fennel, or rooibos.
- Herbs such as ginger, peppermint, and cinnamon will settle your stomach and also help reduce bloating.
Gastroenteritis — commonly known as the stomach bug or stomach flu — causes diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. The virus is passed through contact with an infected person or through contaminated food and water. It can be an incredibly unpleasant sickness, even if it only lasts a couple of days, so it is important to do what you can to treat your symptoms and prevent the spread of the virus.
Currently, there is not a cure for the stomach bug. It is something you have to wait out. But if you know what to look for, you may be able to make yourself more comfortable.
Signs, symptoms and treating the stomach bug
If you have not experienced the stomach bug before, you’re lucky. The truth is that norovirus, the leading cause of stomach bug for adults, causes more than 20 million illnesses each year. This leads to 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anyone can catch the stomach bug, and often you have a bad day or two before it goes away. If you or someone you care about has the stomach bug, you may recognize the following symptoms:
- Abdominal cramps
- Stomach pain
- Nausea and vomiting
If the virus is especially bad, you may also experience:
- Chills or sweating
- Joint stiffness or muscle pain
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
If you have the stomach bug, it is important to treat your symptoms. This means drinking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and getting lots of rest. The other important focus when you have the stomach bug is preventing the spread of the virus. To keep others from getting sick, you should:
- Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands often. This can prevent contamination and stop the spread of the virus.
- Prepare food properly: Be sure to wash fruits and vegetables and cook food thoroughly. Getting foods to the proper temperature can kill the virus.
- Clean infected surfaces: Disinfect surfaces after someone is sick in the home. The stomach bug can survive outside the body on countertops, glasses, and even the remote control if you’re not careful.
When to see a healthcare professional
Deaths from the stomach bug are often among the more vulnerable populations of the young and the elderly. You always want to be especially vigilant when the young and old get sick. But millions of people get the stomach bug each year. We recommend taking over-the-counter medicines to treat the symptoms you experience and do what you can to feel more comfortable. Anti-diarrheal medicines can help and pain relievers may make you feel better. If you experience any of the following symptoms or if symptoms do not improve with time, you should speak with a healthcare professional.
- Black or bloody stool
- Temperature over 101.5 for more than 24 hours
- Prolonged vomiting
- Signs of dehydration
- Diarrhea for more than 3 days
We have talked about the importance of getting the right amount of fluids, as dehydration can take a serious toll on your body. You should seek medical attention if you feel you are dehydrated following a bout with the stomach bug.
FastMed is here to help
Nothing about the stomach bug is fun. It can cause a terribly uncomfortable couple of days. But besides drinking a lot of fluids and sleeping, there is not a lot you can do to battle back. If you have the stomach bug and want to talk to a healthcare professional, call your local FastMed. We’re happy to talk to you about your options, give you some advice, and set up an appointment if you need additional attention. Our online check-in will have you in and out and back in bed in no time at all.
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.
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.
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 www.toddlersense.co.za or call 011 465 3480.
- childhood illnesses
- common childhood infections
- family health
How To Get Rid of the Stomach Bug
We all dread the stomach bug the most out of any sickness that can be past from one person to the next. It can leave a family so exhausted, and overflowing with laundry for weeks.
For over 10 years, I have been using the same natural remedy to get rid of the stomach bug, and often times we used it as a preventative to just keep it away when we know that we have been around someone that came down with it.
The natural remedy is as simple as chamomile tea and raw honey.
Let me share why it works, and almost immediately…
Chamomile is an herb that has been referred to as the ‘gardener's physician'. It earned this nickname because when planted in a garden that has been producing ill results, the chamomile plant seems to heal the problem and allows for a healthy garden to grow. It does the same to the gut.
Chamomile has been known to calm an upset stomach, and aid in relaxation.
Next, you also need raw honey that hasn't been processed. My favorite brand that I have used for these 10 years is Really Raw Honey.
Here is how raw honey works…
Raw honey is an antibiotic, and is full of good bacteria.
When taken without processing, the good bacteria in raw honey works to overtake the bad bacteria that is causing the upset stomach, and leads to the stomach bug with either vomiting or diarrhea. The more good bacteria a gut has the better. The good bacteria will literally kill off the bad bacteria.
Explaining the good bacteria as soldiers or a super hero and bad bacteria as a bad guy or villain will help younger children be willing to drink this tea, even if they haven't been willing before.
No wonder these two working together can make such an impact on a stomach bug and bring back health before it goes through the whole house hold.
Here is how to make this natural remedy for your own family…
Bring water to a boil. Then steep a chamomile tea bag in a cup of the boiling water for 5-10 minutes with a cover over the cup for the best results. I use this brand with success.
Once the tea has cooled down to room temperature, add the raw honey. Stir it and drink it quickly.
Note: Adding raw honey when the tea is too hot will destroy the medicinal properties in honey, causing it to be sweetened tea without any power for the gut.
If the stomach bug has already caused someone to vomit or have diarrhea, I will always boil a whole pot of water, steep it with chamomile tea (1 tea bag for every cup of tea the water will provide, usually 8-10) and pour it in this coffee thermos so I can easily and quickly serve my family a cup of this natural remedy. This has been such a stress relieve when it hits us all at the same time or in the middle of the night, because I can take it with me to where I need to serve it.
In our home, once someone has vomited or had diarrhea, and we know that something is going around, I will have each of us take a cup and it is the last we see of it.
If you liked this post, you would also like 5 Ways to Strengthen a Child's Immune System…
Stomach Flu Prevention
Now, you guys probably know the basics here. Things like:
- Wash your hands often, especially when you’ve been around ill people.
- Eat plenty of foods high in antioxidants, like blueberries, garlic, and green tea.
- Keep your stress levels at a minimum.
- Be nice to your stomach by not drinking loads of soda, coffee, or alcohol.
But I have something you may not have heard about. A secret weapon for the flu season.
It’s called astragalus root.
This stuff kind of looks like tongue depressors, but it’s actually a very potent root and a great way to boost your immune system in the winter months.
Astragalus has been a staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, and is used for many maladies (including lowering blood pressure and providing energy). Its most effective use, though, is as a very hearty immune booster.
You don’t actually eat the dried root itself, though you can find astragalus extract in health food stores. This is what I did last winter:
I kept a jar of astragalus root next to my stove. Once or twice a week, whenever I cooked something that either sauteed or was a soup of some sort, I’d toss in half a stick of astragalus and allow it to cook with my food. Then, I just pulled the root out before I eat the food.
Astragalus has no taste at all, which is awesome. You super charge your food with immune boosters, and you don’t even know it.
What to Do When You First Suspect the Stomach Flu
I wish I could take my own advice here, two days ago. Because I have intimate insight at this moment, please forgive my first tip (but understand that I believe it’s the most important):
- Clean your toilet. Throwing up is horrible stuff, but it’s eighty times worse when you realize, just as you open the lid, that you haven’t cleaned your toilet in a week. Even a day-old cleaned toilet at that point is disturbing. As SOON as you start to feel icky or even suspect that you’re getting sick, clean your toilet.
- ï»¿Take some vitamin C. It may be too late, and your body may not digest all of it, but the faster you can get antioxidants into your system at this point, the better off you’ll be.
- Avoid spicy or acidic foods. Gastroenteritis often starts as a slight nausea, probably not enough to keep you from eating the Thai takeout you ordered just before you started feeling a little icky. Put it in the fridge and don’t touch it until you’re sure you’re well. Your stomach and throat will thank you for it later.
- Make sure you have ginger, bananas, and crackers. Either send your spouse to the store, or if you’re not terribly sick yet, get there yourself. These will come in handy later.
- Put on more clothes. You may not be able to avoid the chills completely, but tossing on a pair of socks and a sweatshirt may help your body regulate its temperature before a fever sets in.
Treat Your Stomach Flu Symptoms
Sadly, there’s not a lot you can do for yourself once viral gastroenteritis sets in. Once the first visit to the toilet happens, you’re probably not going to be able to eat or drink anything at all for a few hours.
So just forget about that for now. If you feel up to it, you can suck on a piece of ice (it’s important to stay as hydrated as you can), but don’t try to put too much into your stomach, because it’s just going to head on back up soon anyway.
Here are some other things you can do, though, that don’t involve eating or drinking:
- Take a cool bath with mustard. Mustard helps draw out impurities from your body and it increases circulation. If you have a fever, make sure your bath is on the cool side. Add 2 Tbsp mustard powder to 1/4 c. baking soda, and stir it in the bathwater. Relax as much as you possibly can.
- Put a warm towel on your stomach. If your flu involves stomach cramps, one way to get them to chill out a bit is to warm your stomach muscles up. I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re running a high fever, but it’s one way to keep yourself from doubling over in pain every few minutes.
- And then put a cool peppermint washcloth on your head. You could skip the peppermint and just use a cool washcloth to help lessen a fever and headache, but if you add peppermint to the mix, you’ll get extra headache-fighting powers and relief from nausea. Either soak the washcloth in peppermint tea (and put it in the freezer until it’s cold), or put two or three drops of peppermint essential oil on the washcloth after wetting it down with cool water.
- Have someone special rub your feet. One tried-and-true home remedy for nausea is a good old-fashioned foot rub. Have your lovey grab some shea or cocoa butter and go to town on your footsies. It may keep you from lurching to the bathroom so often.
- Pinch away your headache. Take your first finger and thumb and pinch (as hard as you can) the very sensitive webbing between your other first finger and thumb. This simple acupuncture-type treatment might help lessen the headache pain significantly.
- Sleep as much as humanly possible, and stop worrying about your life. This was the hardest thing for me the last couple of days. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was worrying about what I wasn’t getting done. It didn’t help me get better any faster, and–surprise–the world didn’t fall apart during my down time.
What to do When You’re on the Mend
Yummy ginger tea.
One of the quickest ways to mend an upset stomach is to break out the yummy ginger tea. I drink it whenever things feel a little unsettled in the digestive area, but it’s been a GIANT help today as I’m getting better.
Here’s how you do it:
Cut about four quarter-sized slices of peeled ginger (ginger peels VERY easily using the side of a spoon, by the way). Boil some water, and pour it in a tea mug. Add 1 tsp honey and stir. Then put in the ginger and let the mixture cool to a drinkable temperature. You don’t even need to remove the ginger. Just let it keep steeping as you drink up.
In addition to the ginger tea, there are other things you can do to help speed up recovery and be ready for a fresh, new, and exciting day when you wake up the morning after. Here are some ideas.
- Eat slowly – MCBRAT. Don’t eat until you’re ready – until it’s starting to sound kind of good, and when you do eat, do it slowly. A tiny bit at a time – and choose one of the foods from the MCBRAT diet. The BRAT diet is the standard diet for children who have diarrhea, but it’s perfect for recovering flu sufferers. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. MC stands for mashed potatoes and crackers. Whatever you eat, make sure they’re VERY bland foods that are high in starch. Bananas are especially good, because they also replace the potassium you lost by throwing up or having diarrhea.
- Drink chamomile tea. If you’re feeling up to it at any point in your flu, head for the chamomile tea. This is going to soothe your stomach tremendously, and it may also help with the stomach cramps (chamomile is a calmative). This is great as your on the mend, or even during your bout of flu, if you think you can handle it.
- Allow yourself time. Just because you’re not writhing around in pain doesn’t mean you should jump up and start cleaning the kitchen. Relapses are VERY common with viral gastroenteritis, and one way you can absolutely ensure a relapse is if you start doing too much too quickly. Take an extra day off if you have to. Otherwise, you could end up in bed for another three.
- Drink everything you can, except coffee, alcohol, dark soda, or milk. Water, (decaffeinated) tea, juice, ginger ale … you name it. Whatever you can drink, do it. You need to rehydrate, sicky. You need to rehydrate as soon as you possibly can.
- Take your vitamins. Don’t do this on an empty stomach, because it could cause extra nausea. But the faster you can replenish your vitamin stores after you start eating, the better. Most importantly, though, try to take a potassium supplement ASAP. Vomiting and diarrhea do very nasty things to your potassium reserves. In addition, the World Health Organization recommends that children take a zinc supplementation for up to two weeks after suffering from a bout of gastroenteritis.
- Eat yogurt, but skip the artificially sweetened kind. Any fermented milk product would work here (like kefir … yum). Fermented milk products have been shown to reduce the duration of gastroenteritis symptoms, as they contain good bacteria that regulates the stomach flora. Just avoid yogurt or kefir that also uses artificial sweeteners – bad for your stomach and your health.
- Read a book. Write a letter. While you’re on the mend from the stomach flu, you’ve got some down time you hadn’t planned for. This down time shouldn’t be spent working – it should be spent recuperating. So do something relaxing that you wouldn’t normally do. That book on your shelf you’ve been meaning to get to? Thank the illness. You now have time.
One More Note: Vomiting and diarrhea can dehydrate you to dangerous levels if they’re prolonged in duration. If you’ve suffered from vomiting or diarrhea for more than 48 hours or are running a temperature over 103, you should give your doctor a call or visit the urgent care center.
Okay, so I’m feeling MUCH better after writing all of this. While I may not have been ready for my illness, hopefully some of you will be ready now – just in case.
Do you have anything you like to do when the stomach flu makes its unwanted appearance?
Any secrets or home remedies we should all know?
In time-for-chicken-soup crunch!