The Stomach Flu, or gastroenteritis, is one of the most common illnesses besides the common cold and influenza. A mild case may last a short 24 hours or a longer case can linger in your system for quite a few days. The worst of the symptoms usually will come on quite suddenly but can pass within 48 hours. The stomach flu can be brought on by a virus, food poisoning, such as salmonella or e-coli, parasites, bacteria, and unsanitary drinking water.
When you get the stomach flu you can have severe stomach cramping that will result in vomiting and diarrhea. This is usually accompanied by a fever, chills, sweats, muscle aches and a headache. Once these symptoms start it is best to stick to a clear liquid diet. Sipping on broths and clear sodas can help keep some nutrition in your body. Be sure to drink plenty of sports drinks, such as Gatorade or PowerAde, in order to replenish the very important electrolytes that you are expelling. You can also suck on popsicles or ice for added fluids.
Often drinking plain water is not going to be good enough since water does not contain the added nutrients that your body is craving. The most important thing to remember is to stay hydrated. Once you start feeling dehydrated you will feel even worse. Dehydration causes fatigue, headaches and lightheadedness, so stay hydrated to keep up your strength and to avoid getting any worse. Be sure to rest whenever you can. Although frequent trips to the bathroom may prevent you from getting much sleep initially, you should try to sleep the virus off the best that you can. If you are suffering from a headache or fever, you should take some Tylenol or Ibuprofen to alleviate the pain. Also an antihistamine can help to induce sleep so you are able to sleep off the illness.
Try to avoid taking anti-nausea or anti-diarrhea medications since it is actually important to allow the body to flush out whatever bacteria or virus that has caused the illness in the first place. There is something called Cola Syrup found at most local pharmacies that can be sipped on to help with nausea and to settle the stomach. If you feel that you are becoming too dehydrated then it is a good idea to see a doctor right away. Also if you notice blood in your vomit or stool then it is very important to seek medical help. If the gastroenteritis is caused by a bacterial infection then your doctor may prescribe you some antibiotics. This may be the case if you have a stomach flu that is lasting much longer than the normal 24-48 hours.
After you start feeling somewhat better and the vomiting has stopped it is a good idea to start eating more solid foods. Stick to bland foods like dry toast, rice, bananas or applesauce. Leave out anything fatty, greasy or spicy since your stomach will not be able to digest that very well. Also you should avoid dairy foods until the diarrhea has stopped as well. Once your body is able to handle eating bland foods and the diarrhea has stopped then it can be a good idea to eat a bit of yogurt. Yogurt contains a lot of good bacteria that your body will need after such an illness. It is important to replenish these bacteria so that your intestine can resume proper functioning again.
Most often gastroenteritis just needs to run its course. There are times in which medical attention will be needed, but for most cases getting plenty of fluids and lots of rest is the only thing you need to do.
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