Stomach Flu Treatment
Because there is no medicine that will kill the viruses that cause stomach flu, treatment consists of managing symptoms while the body fights the infection. For people with stomach flu, treatment should begin with keeping the body hydrated. Other suggestions include getting plenty of rest, eating bland foods, and avoiding caffeine until the infection has passed.
There is no medicine that will kill stomach flu viruses (antibiotics are not effective against viral infections). Therefore, stomach flu treatment goals are focused on providing supportive care while the body fights the stomach flu. Supportive care involves treating symptoms, such as dehydration, that can occur as a result of the stomach flu.
Fortunately, for people with healthy immune systems, the body is able to effectively kill stomach flu viruses, and after 1 to 10 days (depending on the virus), stomach flu symptoms generally improve.
Your body needs fluids to function. Dehydration is the loss of fluids from the body. Important salts or minerals, known as electrolytes, can also be lost with the fluids. Dehydration can be caused by:
- Excessive urination
- Excessive sweating
- Not drinking enough fluids because of nausea, difficulty swallowing, or loss of appetite.
In cases of stomach flu, the combination of diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration.
The symptoms of dehydration are:
- Excessive thirst
- Dry mouth
- Little or no urine (or dark-yellow urine)
- Decreased tears
- Severe weakness or lethargy
- Dizziness or lightheadedness.
Giving special fluids by mouth (called oral rehydration therapy) is the most effective stomach flu treatment for preventing dehydration. By drinking oral rehydration fluids (ORF), juice, or water, people can reduce their chances of becoming dehydrated. Sports drinks do not replace the nutrients and minerals lost during this illness. Special fluids used for oral rehydration can be found in most pharmacies or grocery stores and can be purchased without a prescription.
Children with stomach flu present special concerns. Because of their smaller body size, infants and children are at greater risk of dehydration from diarrhea and vomiting. Oral rehydration solutions such as Pedialyte® can replace lost fluids, minerals, and salts.
Parents of children with severe diarrhea should start oral rehydration and take their child for medical evaluation. In severe cases requiring a visit to the emergency room or hospitalization, stomach flu treatment may involve replacing body fluids directly through the veins using an intravenous (IV) line.