What is the stomach flu?
- Watery diarrhea
- Abdominal cramps/pain
- Occasional muscle pain
- Sometimes low-grade fever
If you come in contact with an infected person, ingest contaminated food or water or share your personal items such as plates and toothbrushes, you are likely to contract a stomach virus.
If you are otherwise healthy, you will probably recover without complications.
- Noroviruses: This is the most common cause of foodborne illness in both children and adults worldwide. It can spread through families and communities. It is likely to spread among people who live in confined spaces. Mostly, you pick up the virus from contaminated food or water, although person-to-person transmission is also possible.
- Rotaviruses: This is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in children and babies who put their fingers and other contaminated objects in their mouths. The infection is most severe in newborn babies and children. Adults infected with rotavirus may not show any symptoms; however, they still can spread the infection.
Some shellfish, especially raw or undercooked oysters, may also make you sick. In many cases, the virus is passed through the fecal-oral route.
How long does the stomach flu last?
- Symptoms that include vomiting and diarrhea, fever and stomach pain can last for one to three days depending on the cause.
- Diarrhea may persist longer, for up to 10 days, after the disappearance of other symptoms.
- Even if you are feeling better and even if your symptoms subside, you can be still contagious from a few days up to two weeks or more, depending on which virus caused your stomach flu.
- Because the symptoms are similar, viral diarrhea can be easily confused with diarrhea caused by other bacteria (bacteria that cause cholera or diarrheal illnesses).
- Your infection may range from mild to severe. If you are healthy and drink enough fluids to replace fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhea, then it will not cause any problems in recovery. However, if you have complications such as dehydration (severe loss of water and essential salts and minerals), it may require more attention.
- Babies, veterans and people with a low immune system (human immunodeficiency virus [HIV], cancer, or other severe illnesses) may become severely dehydrated when they lose more fluids than they can replace. Sometimes, hospitalization may be required to replace the lost fluids through intravenous fluid supply. Dehydration can be fatal, but it is rare.
Who is more susceptible to stomach flu?
Worldwide, people of every age, race and background are affected by stomach flu (gastroenteritis); however, the following people are more susceptible to it
- Newborn babies and children, especially in childcare centers and elementary schools, are more vulnerable to catch these infections.
- Older adults tend to catch the infection due to a weakened immune system.This applies especially to veterans in nursing homes who are more vulnerable and they can pass the infection on to other close contacts.
- Anywhere where groups of people come together in close quarters can be an environment for transmission of intestinal infection.
- People with a weakened immune system because of diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) and cancer or due to chemotherapy are at risk of infection.
- In the northern hemisphere, rotavirus and norovirus are most active between October and April.
Latest Infectious Disease News
Daily Health News
How do doctors diagnose stomach flu?
Your doctor will likely diagnose gastroenteritis based on
- Your symptoms
- A physical examination
- The presence of similar cases in your community
- A rapid stool test to detect rotavirus or norovirus or to rule out other possible bacterial or parasitic infections
Your pediatrician may assess your child for the degree of dehydration by checking
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top How Long Does the Stomach Flu Last Related Articles
Children's Abdominal PainAbdominal pain in children can be more than just a tummy ache. What are the common causes of abdominal pain in children? Learn about pediatric abdominal pain symptoms and treatments for stomach pain in children.
Stomach Flu (Gastroenteritis) Symptoms, Signs Treatment Remedies, DietStomach flu (gastroenteritis) is a term referred used to describe a variety of gastrointestinal problems. The most common signs and symptoms of gastroenteritis are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. The most common cause of gastroenteritis in the United States is Norovirus. Other causes of gastroenteritis include Rotavirus, Astrovirus, Adenovirus, and Sapovirus. There are bacterial causes of gastroenteritis such as Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter Aeromonas, E. coli, Clostridium, Vibrio, Campylobacter, and Yersinia spp. Parasites that cause gastroenteritis include Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, and Entamoeba. Treatment for gastroenteritis is generally home remedies such as keeping hydrated to prevent dehydration. At times, hospitalization may be necessary if dehydration occurs.
How Do I Get Rid of the Stomach Flu?The medical treatment for stomach flu is based on maintaining adequate hydration and body sodium-potassium levels. The treatment for stomach flu initially consists of self-care measures such as drinking fluids, replacing lost electrolytes, resting, eating a bland diet and seeking medical attention if you need to.
Is the Stomach Flu Contagious?The stomach flu (gastroenteritis) refers to variety infections that occur in the GI (gastrointestinal tract). The stomach flu is caused by viruses (for example, Norovirus or "Cruise Ship Virus), bacteria (for example, Salmonella and E. coli), parasites (for example, Giardiasis or Giardia lamblia), medications like antibiotics, food allergies, and toxins.
Common symptoms of the stomach flu include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal pain. Generally, the stomach flu is treated at home by treating symptoms with home remedies and OTC medication.
Stomach Flu vs. Food Poisoning
The stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis) and food poisoning are not the same infections. However, they do have a few similar symptoms, for example:
- Abdominal (stomach) pain and cramping.
Symptoms and signs of food poisoning show up earlier (2 hours up to a couple of days) in comparison to the stomach flu in which symptoms may take 4 hours up to 48 hours (2 days) before symptoms begin. Medical treatment for the stomach flu and food poisoning generally is not necessary. A bland diet, drinking plenty of fluids, and rest may be the only treatment necessary.
Stomach Flu: Types, Symptoms, and TreatmentStomach flu symptoms need treatment if vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration are severe. Stomach flu is contagious and some cases may be due to food poisoning. Stomach flu remedies include hydration, electrolytes, and bland diet. You may need medicine if stomach flu duration is too long or you have severe symptoms.
Stomach PictureThe stomach is a muscular sac located on the left side of the upper abdomen. See a picture of the Stomach and learn more about the health topic.
Tummy Trouble QuizTummy Troubles? Get a better idea of what's causing the nausea, vomiting, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, pain, and other gastrointestinal discomforts and problems. Take the Tummy Troubles Quiz!
What Causes Vomiting? 7 Reasons Why and How to Ease ItVomiting is a reflex directed by the brain toward the intestines to reverse their peristaltic movements to force the contents of the stomach out through the mouth. It is usually a symptom of an underlying disease.