Stomach flu is one of the most annoying and most excruciating common viral diseases. Even though it does not last very long, even two or three days spent on the toilet or in bed with painful cramps can be very depressing, and even when the virus passes, it leaves the person exhausted and weak for days.
About stomach flu
Even though most people call it stomach flu, this infection is not caused by the same virus as the regular flu, nor is it caused by bacteria. The cause of this gastrointestinal infection can be rotavirus, adenovirus, astrovirus or calicivirus. Adenovirus usually affects babies and toddlers, while astrovirus is more active with the elderly, who have a weak immune system.
Viruses that cause stomach flu are very contagious. They are passed from person to person through direct contact or by touching the contaminated objects like door knobs, telephones, personal items, utensils and similar. Sometimes a person contracts the virus but does not get sick. That person can still pass the virus to others, even though he or she is not sick.
Typical symptoms of stomach flu include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, sometimes fever and headache too. The symptoms can last from two to ten days.
How to treat stomach flu
Unfortunately, there is no medication or a treatment that can cure stomach flu, just like there is no specific treatment for regular flu or common cold. There are things that can be done that can alleviate the symptoms, prevent the complications and reduce the duration of the illness.
One of the most important things is too keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, especially plain water, herbal tea like peppermint or chamomile, and chicken soup. Dehydration can easily occur due to massive loss of fluids from diarrhea and vomiting and those fluids must be replenished. Beverages that have a diuretic or dehydrating effect, like alcohol and coffee, should be avoided.
During stomach flu it is very hard to keep anything down and when the illness is at its peak, the person suffering from it vomits practically anything that he or she eats. When the vomiting subsides, solid foods can be introduced, being careful to choose only bland foods that will not irritate the stomach. Such foods include rice, boiled potatoes, saltines, crackers, plain toast, lean chicken and similar things.
Sipping fluids, eating small portions of bland food and plenty of rest are practically the only treatment for stomach flu. The body takes care of the virus by itself but it takes a day or two.
Even after the symptoms pass, it is highly recommended to frequently wash hands and to avoid direct contact with other people, because even when the illness is gone the person is still contagious for at least ten days and can easily pass the virus to others.