How to Treat the Stomach Flu?

The stomach flu is one of the most dreaded viruses and can wreak havoc on holidays. What is the stomach flu? How can we treat it? And when should you see your doctor for it?

Sanaz Majd, MD
5-minute read
Episode #229

It’s winter, and a wonderful time for some—also a great opportunity to remind ourselves of our many blessings. And for others, it’s not a happy time, as we are reminded of family members lost, or no family nearby or anywhere, for that matter. Depression rises this time of year. I am reminded of this every year around this time while seeing patients in the clinic. You don’t have to fight it alone: please ask your doctor for help.

Another unfortunate outcome of the winter months is viruses. They are rampant. Cold and flu everywhere you turn. Although we have covered these topics in depth in prior episodes, we cannot forget about the stomach flu.

Veronica came to see me for vomiting and diarrhea of three days. She cannot seem to shake it off and thought it was food poisoning at first. Food poisoning is often a 24-hour bug. When it lasts longer, it’s likely a different stomach bug.

My nurse had given Veronica a container while she was waiting for me, because she was vomiting the secretions from her stomach—she hasn’t eaten solids in three days, so there’s no food to regurgitate. In the middle of our visit, she had to run to the bathroom because she’s also been experiencing diarrhea.

I empathized with Veronica because I myself, along with my family that consists of preschool-aged twins, have battled the stomach flu many times over now. It is no picnic. Truthfully, I’d rather battle the common cold virus any day compared to these brutal gastrointestinal (GI) invaders. Akin to a war scene, they savagely invade and travel from host to host, leaving destruction for a time period along their path as they go.

What Is the Stomach Flu?

The fancy medical diagnosis to denote the stomach flu is “acute gastroenteritis.” “Gastro” refers to the GI tract, and “enteritis” the inflammation of the intestines. Therefore, acute gastroenteritis is an acute inflammation of the GI tract and is most commonly caused by viruses. The Norovirus, Rotavirus, and Adenovirus are the most popular viral villains exposed in the media.

These GI raiders are transmitted in two ways—from person-to-person and from contaminated foods. After exposure to the virus, symptoms develop within 1-2 days, and the illness last several days to two weeks. Food poisoning, on the other hand, begins within two hours of ingestion of the contaminated food and resolves within 24 hours.

The stomach flu creates havoc on the tummy by causing the following symptoms:

·         Fever

·         Body aches

·         Fatigue

·         Nausea

·         Vomiting

·         Diarrhea

·         Abdominal pain

In addition, it can occasionally accompany upper respiratory symptoms since certain viruses will attack both camps.

How can you treat the stomach flu? Keep reading for some tips.


Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Her special interests are women's health and patient education.