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A Family’s Guide To Managing The Stomach Flu

The stomach flu has been particularly brutal this winter. In fact, it’s infected four out of five of my family members so far and I have a feeling it’s not done yet. You would think that the 24-hour stomach bug would last just a day, but my youngest didn’t start feeling better until at least 4 full days had passed.

It was a HORROR SHOW. And you know what? We are still in the thick of it. If your family is in the same boat, I wanted to write a post that you could read that summed up everything you needed to know – all in one place.

A Family’s Guide To Managing The Stomach Flu

Stomach Flu Tips and Tricks

Identifying Stomach Flu: Symptoms and Signs

Stomach flu, medically known as gastroenteritis, is an intestinal infection marked by uncomfortable symptoms. Recognizing these symptoms early can help manage the condition more effectively, especially in a family setting where care for each member is crucial. Below are the common symptoms and signs of stomach flu to watch out for:

Nausea and Vomiting

One of the most immediate and noticeable signs of stomach flu is nausea, often leading to vomiting. These symptoms can be particularly distressing and may occur suddenly. It’s important to note that while vomiting may relieve nausea temporarily, it can also lead to dehydration, making careful monitoring and hydration essential.


Diarrhea is a hallmark symptom of gastroenteritis. It may range from mild to severe and can cause significant fluid loss, leading to dehydration. In cases of stomach flu, diarrhea is often watery and may occur multiple times a day.

Abdominal Pain and Cramping

Stomach flu is often accompanied by abdominal pain and cramping. This discomfort can vary in intensity and may be relieved temporarily by passing stool or gas. However, persistent or severe abdominal pain should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

Low-Grade Fever

A low-grade fever often accompanies stomach flu. While it’s typically mild, it’s a clear indication of the body fighting off an infection. Monitoring the fever is important, especially in children, as high fever might necessitate medical attention.

Headache and Muscle Aches

Alongside gastrointestinal symptoms, stomach flu can cause systemic symptoms like headaches and generalized muscle aches. These are often due to the body’s overall response to the viral infection.

Fatigue and Weakness

Fatigue and a general feeling of weakness are common during a bout of stomach flu. This is often the result of the body diverting energy to fight the infection, as well as the effects of dehydration and lack of nutrient intake due to reduced appetite.

Loss of Appetite

A decrease in appetite is common with stomach flu. It’s important to try and maintain hydration and nutrition, even if in small, manageable amounts.


Signs of dehydration, such as decreased urination, dry mouth, and dizziness, are important to monitor, especially in children and the elderly. Rehydration with fluids and electrolytes is crucial in the management of stomach flu.

In conclusion, while stomach flu is often a self-limiting condition, understanding its symptoms and signs is key to managing it effectively. Paying attention to hydration, rest, and a suitable diet can aid in a quicker recovery.

Pillow Fort

Stomach Flu vs. Food Poisoning: Understanding the Difference

Confusing stomach flu (gastroenteritis) with food poisoning is common, as they share similar symptoms. However, understanding the differences between these two conditions is crucial for appropriate care and treatment. Here’s a breakdown of the key distinctions:

Cause and Origin

  • Stomach Flu: This condition is typically caused by viruses like norovirus or rotavirus. It can spread through contact with an infected person or contaminated food or water. Stomach flu affects the stomach and intestines, leading to inflammation.
  • Food Poisoning: Contrarily, food poisoning is usually the result of consuming food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Common culprits include bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. Unlike stomach flu, food poisoning is almost always linked to a specific contaminated food item.

Onset of Symptoms

  • Stomach Flu: The symptoms of viral gastroenteritis can appear within one to three days after exposure and typically last for one to two days, though they can sometimes last up to 10 days.
  • Food Poisoning: Symptoms of food poisoning can begin within hours of eating contaminated food. This quick onset is a key differentiator from stomach flu.


  • Stomach Flu: Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, low-grade fever, headache, and muscle aches.
  • Food Poisoning: While symptoms are similar, including diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps, food poisoning can also lead to more severe symptoms like high fever, blood in stools, severe abdominal pain, and dehydration. The symptoms are often more intense but usually resolve quicker than stomach flu.

Duration of Illness

  • Stomach Flu: This illness can last from a few days up to a week or more, depending on the virus causing it.
  • Food Poisoning: Generally, food poisoning is more acute, with symptoms lasting from a few hours to several days.

Prevention Strategies

  • Stomach Flu: Preventive measures include practicing good hygiene, such as regular hand washing, especially after using the restroom or before eating. Vaccinations are available for some causes of viral gastroenteritis, such as the rotavirus.
  • Food Poisoning: Prevention primarily revolves around safe food handling practices, proper cooking, and storing food at safe temperatures to avoid contamination.

Understanding these differences is key to not only providing the right treatment but also in implementing effective prevention strategies. Both conditions, while usually self-limiting, can lead to dehydration, which is a major concern, especially for vulnerable groups like children and the elderly. In any case, seeking medical advice is recommended if symptoms are severe or prolonged.

stomach bug

Managing Stomach Flu at Home: Effective Remedies

When dealing with stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis, at home, there are several effective remedies and strategies that can aid in recovery and comfort. Focusing on proper hydration, nutrition, rest, and the BRAT diet can significantly help manage the symptoms. Here’s how to approach each aspect:

Hydration: The Key to Recovery

  • Importance of Fluids: Hydration is crucial when battling stomach flu, as vomiting and diarrhea can lead to significant fluid loss. Drinking plenty of fluids prevents dehydration.
  • What to Drink: Opt for clear liquids like water, herbal teas, and broths. Oral rehydration solutions are particularly beneficial as they replenish electrolytes. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they can worsen dehydration.
  • Sipping Strategy: If nausea is a problem, try sipping small amounts of fluids frequently instead of drinking large quantities at once.

Nutritional Support

  • BRAT Diet: The BRAT diet, consisting of Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast, is gentle on the stomach and can help in gradually reintroducing solid foods. These foods are bland, low in fiber, and high in starch, making them easier to digest.
  • Expanding the Diet: As symptoms improve, gradually include other bland foods like crackers, boiled potatoes, and plain yogurt. Listen to your body and reintroduce foods slowly.
  • Foods to Avoid: Steer clear of dairy products, spicy foods, fatty foods, and anything overly sweet, as they can aggravate the digestive system.

Rest and Comfort

  • Adequate Rest: The body needs rest to fight off the viral infection effectively. Ensure plenty of sleep and avoid strenuous activities.
  • Comfort Measures: Use heating pads for abdominal cramps, and maintain a comfortable, calm environment to aid in recovery.

Additional Home Care Tips

  • Hygiene Practices: To prevent the spread of the virus, practice good hygiene, including frequent handwashing, especially after using the bathroom and before eating.
  • Isolation if Necessary: If possible, the person affected should use a separate bathroom to minimize the risk of spreading the virus to other family members.

When to Seek Medical Attention

  • Signs of Dehydration: If symptoms of dehydration, such as decreased urination, extreme thirst, or dizziness, appear, seek medical attention.
  • Severe Symptoms: Persistent or severe symptoms, such as high fever, blood in vomit or stools, or intense abdominal pain, warrant a visit to the doctor.

Managing stomach flu at home involves a careful balance of rest, hydration, appropriate diet, and hygiene. While it is often a self-limiting condition, paying attention to the severity of symptoms and ensuring proper care is essential, especially for vulnerable individuals like children and the elderly. Remember, these home remedies are meant to support recovery; they are not a substitute for professional medical advice if symptoms are severe or persistent.


Tips To Keep Siblings Apart When One Has The Stomach Flu

This is what my family does whenever one of our kids are sick. We usually take that sick child and board them up with one parent in the parents’ bedroom. We make it really fun for the sick child – allow them to watch whatever they want and cater to their every need. This also minimizes the risk of exposure for the rest of the children.

If that is not possible, then give the sick child one side of the couch and put everyone else on the other. You really need to keep everyone apart. Although, like I said, we are basically all sick right now…. so maybe don’t listen to me because obviously, it’s not working.


Recovery and Aftercare: Navigating the Post-Stomach Flu Phase

Recovering from stomach flu, or gastroenteritis, involves more than just the disappearance of symptoms. Proper aftercare is crucial to regain strength and prevent recurrence. Here’s a guide to navigating the recovery phase effectively:

Gradual Return to Normal Diet

  • Reintroducing Foods: Post-stomach flu, gradually reintroduce more substantial foods into your diet. Start with bland, easy-to-digest foods and slowly incorporate your regular diet.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how your body reacts to different foods. If certain foods cause discomfort or a return of symptoms, it may be wise to avoid them for a few more days.

Continuing Hydration

  • Maintain Fluid Intake: Even after symptoms subside, continue to drink plenty of fluids to ensure complete hydration and recovery.
  • Electrolyte Balance: Consider beverages with electrolytes to restore any imbalance, especially if the bout of stomach flu was intense.

Rest and Physical Activity

  • Adequate Rest: Allow your body sufficient time to recover fully. Rest is a crucial component of the recovery process.
  • Gradual Return to Activity: Slowly ease back into your regular physical activities. Overexertion can lead to a relapse of symptoms.

Monitoring for Recurrence

  • Watch for Symptoms: Stay alert for any return of stomach flu symptoms. If symptoms reappear, it may indicate that the recovery isn’t complete, or there’s a need for further medical evaluation.

Reinforcing Hygiene Practices

  • Preventive Hygiene: Continue practicing good hygiene, such as regular hand washing, to prevent the spread of the virus and reduce the chance of recurrence.

Nutritional Supplements

  • Consider Supplements: Depending on the severity of your stomach flu, you may have lost significant nutrients. Consult with a healthcare provider about taking vitamin or mineral supplements to replenish your body.

Psychological Well-being

  • Stress Management: The experience of being ill can be stressful. Engage in stress-reducing activities and ensure you get enough sleep to aid mental recovery.

When to Consult a Doctor

  • Seek Medical Advice: If recovery seems prolonged or if you experience any concerning symptoms, consult a healthcare provider for advice.

The recovery and aftercare phase is as important as the initial management of stomach flu. Paying attention to diet, hydration, rest, and hygiene can significantly aid in the recovery process and help prevent future episodes. It’s also a good time to reflect on any dietary or lifestyle changes that could enhance your overall health and immune response. Remember, while most cases of stomach flu resolve without complications, it’s important to seek medical advice if recovery doesn’t progress as expected.

Do you have any tips that you’d like to share regarding the stomach bug? Please share if you do!



Wednesday 16th of January 2019

Whenever there is the first sign on any illness. I take the hand towels out of the bathrooms and replace it with paper towels.


Tuesday 15th of January 2019

Uuuuugh. It is SO bad this year. I actually got it two days after Christmas. No one else in my family got it but no joke, I wasn't better for AT LEAST A WEEK. (I mean, to fully recover. The puking only lasted 24 hours.) It is brutal. Hang in there!

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