The stomach flu, also known as acute gastroenteritis, is caused by one of several types of viruses. Viruses such as rotavirus, enteric adenovirus, and norovirus cause symptoms of frequent loose stool, nausea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramping. Typically, the illness lasts no more than a week and treatment is aimed at symptom management and hydration.
If vomiting occurs, it typically lasts for the first few days of the illness. Anti-nausea medication can be helpful with this symptom so that hydration can be achieved. Some patients have such severe vomiting which requires IV hydration. Once you can tolerate liquids by mouth, starting a bland diet known as the BRATT diet can help give you some nourishment. BRATT=Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Tea & Toast.
Even though it can be the most troublesome symptom, diarrhea needs to run it’s course. You especially want to stay away from anti-diarrheal agents such as Immodium if you are having a fever. With rest and rehydration, you will be back to your normal routine soon after the virus has cleared out of your system. This can take anywhere from 2-7 days.
Talk to your doctor if you have had recent travel to a foreign country or have eaten food that have not been properly cooked. Also, it is important to mention to your provider if you have taken recent antibiotics prior to getting the stomach flu or if you are immunocompromised in any way. These conditions have a higher risk of more serious causes of diarrhea and need to be managed differently.