If you’ve ever had the flu, you know it’s not fun. Do you know what the best treatment is for quick recovery? Here are the best ways for Treating the Stomach Flu.
The stomach flu may carry a name similar to the influenza virus, but the illness is not caused by the same viral infection as the flu. The condition also does not carry the same symptoms as the influenza virus. In truth, the medical term for the stomach flu is gastroenteritis, directly translated into inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
When talking to patients, doctors commonly refer to it as the norovirus. The treatment for the stomach flu is also different than what is provided for the influenza virus, better known as the seasonal flu.
Treatment for the stomach flu is based on the cause of the inflammation or irritation. Typically, treatment is limited to providing relief from diarrhea, vomiting and inflammation. At times, gastroenteritis can be caused by a food allergy. Other cases of the stomach flu are caused by bacterial infection, infection by parasites, or a contracted virus. (1)
If the specific case of gastroenteritis is attributed to an allergic reaction to a specific food, removing the food and providing adequate time for the GI tract to rest may be the best method of treatment. Gastroenteritis attributed to viruses do not have an available cure.
How do you get rid of the stomach flu?
Typically, treatment goals are centered on supporting the body through symptomatic treatment will allow the body the strength it requires to fight off the virus. For the majority of the population, a healthy immune system is fully capable of irradiating the virus in a time span of one to 10 days. (2)
Gastroenteritis that is caused by a parasite infection must be treated medically, by removing the infectious parasite completely from the GI system. Unfortunately, this type of gastroenteritis looks a lot like the other forms of the condition.
Because of this, it may take up to two weeks to determine whether the condition is caused by a parasite. However, when all other possibilities have been ruled out and the condition is determined to be of parasitic origin, treatment is rather quick. (3)
Symptoms and Side Effects of the Stomach Flu
One of the unfortunate side effects is that gastroenteritis can wreak havoc on the body, and it can inflict a significant amount of damage. The primary side effect it poses to the body is dehydration. This is caused by the bodyís inability to retain fluids, contributed to vomiting and diarrhea.
Dehydration poses significant risks to children and the elderly, who face a weakened immune system. Because of this, maintaining basic levels of hydration is extremely important. If fluids cannot be held down, and the person who is ill has not urinated for six hours, intravenous fluids may be necessary.
The good news is that the stomach flu can generally be treated at home without medical intervention. As long as the body responds quickly to fight off the cause, there really is not a reason to visit a primary care doctor.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to make it well known that families who have young children, and especially those who have infants, should always have a supply of oral rehydration supplies. It is also recommended that antibiotics be avoided unless your physician has confirmed the infection is caused by a bacterium. (1)
If the symptoms of the stomach flu present primarily as diarrhea, it is important to compensate by increasing fluid intake. This will help to prevent dehydration.
Using oral rehydration fluids that contain electrolytes can be consumed by children and adults. Infants should be given an oral rehydration fluid specifically made for infants.
Contrary to public belief, sports drinks do not replace lost vitamins, minerals, or nutrients. They can cause sugar overload, causing an increase in diarrhea and vomiting. It is recommended that people with gastroenteritis avoid them.
It is possible to settle the GI tract down by letting it rest for several hours without consuming food. If one of the symptoms is vomiting, sipping small amounts of clear liquids, sucking on ice, or sipping on a rehydration solution may prevent dehydration.
By sipping in small amounts, one can reduce the risk of upsetting the stomach. The body is able to quickly absorb the smaller amounts of liquid, so they are less likely to trigger a vomiting reflex.
After vomiting has ceased for a minimum duration of four hours, one can gradually reintroduce soft, bland foods. Following the BRAT diet, one is more likely to be successful in reintroducing foods.
The BRAT diet consists of bananas, rice, apples and toast. One may also incorporate bland chicken broth, and possibly some bland beef broth. It is important to avoid all caffeine, dairy, and alcohol. Rest at this point is extremely important to regaining strength and fully recovering.
If the symptom of vomiting extends past a 12-hour period, the person stops urinating, or vomiting occurs more than six times in a period of two hours, medical attention may be necessary.
What Causes Vomiting
While it may feel as though the urge to vomit originates from the stomach, it actually does not. Nausea and vomiting is often triggered by a center in the brain, and is not controlled by the stomach.
However, after the initial trigger to vomit is triggered by the brain, it is possible for a feedback loop to be triggered, which causes recurrent vomiting. Even after the virus has been completely cleared from the body, it is possible that the individual continues to vomit.
Anti-nausea medications can be prescribed by a doctor, which are able to calm the brain and bring an end to the feedback loop causing the problem.
When You Should See a Doctor
Dehydration carries a list of symptoms, all of which should be taken seriously. The symptoms are excessive thirst, dark yellow urine, no urine production, dry mouth, extreme weakness, lethargy, lightheadedness, and dizziness.
If these symptoms appear, treatment in the emergency room is necessary. Dehydration is a severe symptom in which the body is in dire need of fluids that are required for the body and various organ systems to function. Once the body has become dehydrated, fluids must be given to maintain vitality and life.
In cases of severe dehydration, an emergency room doctor may recommend a short period of hospitalization, or emergency room observation, so they can replace necessary fluids using an IV and provide necessary medication to stop the feedback loop that is triggering nausea and vomiting.
Read more about Home Remedies for Stomach Flu
(1) Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Viral Gastroenteritis
(2) Brown University Health Education: Stomach Flu
(3) Pediatric Annals: Parasitic Gastroenteritis