The 2023 Stomach Flu: Symptoms and Treatment
With social distancing guidelines lifting and more people gathering for festivals and activities, the spread of illnesses is inevitable. One of the biggest illnesses on our watch? Norovirus, also known as the stomach flu.
While cases of the stomach flu have not exceeded pre-pandemic numbers, they have increased exponentially this year compared to last year, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What is the stomach flu?
The stomach flu is an acute form of gastroenteritis, or inflamed stomach or intestinal lining caused by a virus, bacteria or parasite. In this case, a virus causes the stomach flu, and when you come down with the stomach flu, the symptoms are hard to miss. What’s more, the stomach flu is highly contagious and easily spreads from person-to-person from direct contact or shared food and drink. That means if one member of your family gets the stomach flu, it’s highly likely others in your household will, too.
What are the symptoms of stomach flu?
The symptoms of the stomach flu range from minor aches to debilitating stomach pain and most often present as the following:
- Stomach pain or sensitivity
In typical cases, symptoms from the stomach flu should relieve themselves over a matter of days.
Is the stomach flu contagious?
Yes, the stomach flu is contagious. If you or a family member has the stomach flu, first things first: Make sure you sanitize your home and keep all shared surfaces and living areas disinfected. Handwashing is also another crucial step in protecting yourself from catching the pesky stomach bug. The stomach flu is highly contagious and can spread between people by direct contact, contaminated surfaces or by sharing food and drinks.
What can I do if I have the stomach flu?
Dehydration is a common concern for people who have the stomach flu, as keeping down something as simple as water can be a challenge. Try to stay as hydrated as you can with water or a low-sugar electrolyte beverage. Pedialyte or other electrolyte drinks and popsicles can also work well for children who dislike water. The goal is for slow and steady increments in the volume provided. Sometimes, drinking too fast can cause more vomiting so in general a few sips every 5 minutes or so is best.
More tips to help with the stomach flu:
- Rest. Sleep as much as possible and as often as you need.
- Hydrate with beverages like water or Pedialyte. Energy drinks may be okay for more mild disease but the sugar within them can sometimes cause worsening of symptoms.
- Eat foods that can be digested easily. Bland foods like bananas, rice, applesauce and toast (sometimes called the BRAT diet) and plain mashed potatoes are good options.
- Avoid heavy foods like fried foods, indulgent sauces and gravy, as these foods can further upset one’s stomach.
When should I worry about the stomach flu?
Symptoms from the stomach flu can appear anywhere from one to three days after you’re infected. In general, vomiting should resolve within a day or two whereas loose stools can last longer. If your symptoms have not gotten better after this time, please make an appointment with your primary care physician or child’s pediatrician.
To learn more about gastroenterology, please visit here.
To learn more about pediatric gastroenterology, please visit here.