Looking for stomach flu remedies to help you survive cold and flu season?
You’ve come to the right place.
While most people dislike vomiting, I have suffered from emetophobia – a phobia about vomit – since I was a little girl. The idea of hearing or watching someone throw up makes my heart race, and if I ever see a pile of vomit in public, I am overcome with fear I’ve gotten some on my shoes and will bring it into our house and make my family sick. My medicine cabinet is always equipped with anti-nausea medication, I’m really anal about food safety, I never eat anything with mayonnaise in it, and I avoid sick people like the plague.
For a long time, my avoidance techniques worked really well, but since my daughter started full-time school a couple of years ago, there’s only so much I can do. I lecture her about not putting her hands in or around her eyes, nose, and mouth and I ask her to wash her hands with soap after using the restroom and before eating, but I know my pleas go in one ear and out the other.
And since I don’t want my child to grow up with a fear of getting sick like I did, I try my hardest to keep my fears to myself, and after she was struck with THREE stomach bugs in an 8-week period at the end of 2017, I find my fears subsiding a little bit.
I’ve spent so much time researching and talking to other moms about the best stomach flu remedies, and while I still break out in a cold sweat when I hear the words, ‘Mommy, I have a tummy ache…,’ I’ve come to learn that exposure to our phobias really does help.
Whether you suffer from emetophobia like me, or just need some pointers on how to help your family navigate the winter vomiting bug without losing your sanity, I’m sharing everything I’ve learned about the stomach flu as well as my favorite stomach flu remedies below.
What is the stomach flu?
Funny enough, the stomach flu isn’t really a ‘flu.’ It’s actually called viral gastroenteritis, which is a virus that causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines.
What are the symptoms of stomach flu?
The main symptoms of stomach flu are:
- Abdominal and/or stomach cramps
- Lack of appetite
A low-grade fever and body aches and pains can also occur.
How long does the stomach flu last?
Symptoms usually come on gradually within 12-48 hours of exposure, and last anywhere from 1-3 days. Most of the literature I’ve read online confirms you are contagious for 3 days after your symptoms have stopped, although I remember reading the virus can live up to 2 weeks in a person’s stool, so always err on the side of caution.
When can my child return to school after the stomach flu?
Some schools require a child to stay home for 24 hours after symptoms subside, while others require a child to stay home for 48-72 hours after the last bout of diarrhea or vomiting. Check with your local school board, and be sensible. If your child is still not eating properly, it’s best to keep him or her home an extra day or 2 to be safe.
How can I prevent the stomach flu?
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water
- Wear surgical gloves and a mask when caring for someone who is sick with the stomach flu
- Clean contaminated surfaces with a bleach-based clearner like Clorox
- Wash soiled clothing and linens in hot water
How to get rid of a stomach virus
I used to use anti-nausea and anti-diarrhea pills whenever I felt a stomach flu coming on, and while I still do that sometimes, experience and research has proven to me that there isn’t much you can do to speed up the recovery process other than give your stomach and intestines a break and get some rest. And while OTC medicinal remedies may offer relief, they actually end up prolonging the illness, so I opt for these natural stomach flu remedies instead.
- Reduce liquid intake. Giving too much liquid too soon can make vomiting and diarrhea worse and lead to dehydration. Start with a tablespoon of water or flat ginger ale, wait to see if it can be tolerated, and then increase.
- If you’re worried about dehyration, electrolyte solutions can help. Check your local pharmacy or grocery store for child-friendly options like these Pedialyte Freezer Pops to prevent dehydration when tummy bugs strike.
- Avoid solid foods and stick with the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apple sauce, and toast).
- Use a heating pad to help alleviate stomach cramps.
- Apply pressure to the ‘Nei Kuan’ acupressure point that is located 3 finger widths below your wrist on the inside of your arm using Sea-Bands. They come in 2 sizes – one for children and one for adults!
- Brew a cup of chamomile tea. Its anti-inflammatory properties can help alleviate intestinal discomfort in older kids and adults.
- Ginger offers a fabulous natural treatment for nausea. Peel, cut, and boil fresh ginger and then sip to treat an upset tummy.
What to eat after stomach flu
While it’s best to stick with the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apple sauce, and toast) once vomiting and diarrhea has subsided, knowing what to eat once your appetite returns can be tricky. Avoid things that can further irritate your tummy, like fried foods, spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol, and stick to easy-to-digest options. Here are 5 foods to consider post-stomach flu!
- Coconut water is a natural way to restore your electrolytes without consuming all of the added sugar found in sports drinks.
- Yogurt can help restore gut bacteria, but be sure to wait until you feel up to it and stick with non-dairy options if you are lactose intolerant.
- Chicken noodle soup has long been known to help us feel better when we’re under the weather by helping us to replace fluids, and the chicken and pasta offers us the perfect combination of protein and carbohydrates to give our energy a boost.
- Scrambled eggs are another easy-to-digest source of protein for sensitive tummies.
- Plain pasta and bagels offer a bland way to boost your energy when you can stomach solid foods again.
More stomach flu survival tips
- Be prepared. Always have a bucket, plenty of towels, and a supply of face masks, surgical gloves, Clorox disinfectant, saltines, applesauce, and ginger ale handy so you aren’t left scrambling when a stomach flu hits
- Keep a bucket and towel within arms reach as soon as anyone in your household starts complaining of a tummy ache
- Quarantine sick family members within one room to avoid spreading germs
- Use towels instead of blankets as they are more absorbent and easier to clean
- Double (or triple) sheet a sick child’s bed with a waterproof mattress cover in between each layer to make middle-of-the-night bed changes easier
- Cover all surfaces a sick family member may come into contact with (couch, bed, floor, etc.) with towels for easy clean up
- Since stomach flus are often transmitted via the fecal-oral route, wear surgical gloves and a surgical mask while assisting and cleaning up after a sick family member
- Don’t rush back to school or work after a stomach flu. I’ve learned through experience that you can relapse if you push yourself or your children too soon, and an extra day in bed can make a world of difference in containing illnesses
- Seek medical advice if a family member shows signs of dehydration, has a high fever, shows signs of appendicitis, has blood in his or her stool or vomit, throws up or has diarrhea for more than 48 hours, or shows other signs or symptoms that worry you
While the stomach flu isn’t normally cause for concern and often goes away on its own with proper rest and rehydration, it can be extremely unpleasant, especially when small children are involved. I hope these stomach flu remedies, tips, and tricks help make your experience a little less miserable, and that this year’s cold and flu season is good to you!