Stomach Flu or Virus
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Stomach Virus Diagnosis

If you think you have Stomach Flu (Viral Gastroenteritis), you may want to see your doctor. Doctors generally diagnose Stomach Flu (Viral Gastroenteritis) based on the symptoms and a physical examination. Your doctor may ask for a stool sample to test for rotavirus or to rule out bacteria or parasites as the cause of your symptoms. No routine tests are currently available for the other types of viruses.


Stomach Virus Treatment

Most cases of Stomach Flu (Viral Gastroenteritis) resolve over time without specific treatment. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections. The primary goal of treatment is to reduce the symptoms, and prompt treatment may be needed to prevent dehydration.

Your body needs fluids to function. Dehydration is the loss of fluids from the body. Important salts or minerals, known as electrolytes, can also be lost with the fluids. Dehydration can be caused by diarrhea, vomiting, excessive urination, excessive sweating, or by not drinking enough fluids because of nausea, difficulty swallowing, or loss of appetite.

In Stomach Flu (Viral Gastroenteritis), the combination of diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration. The symptoms of dehydration are

  • excessive thirst
  • dry mouth
  • little or no urine or dark yellow urine
  • decreased tears
  • severe weakness or lethargy
  • dizziness or lightheadedness

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor. Mild dehydration can be treated by drinking liquids. Severe dehydration may require intravenous fluids and hospitalization. Untreated severe dehydration can be life threatening.

Children present special concerns. Because of their smaller body size, infants and children are at greater risk of dehydration from diarrhea and vomiting. Oral rehydration solutions such as Pedialyte can replace lost fluids, minerals, and salts.

The following steps may help relieve the symptoms of Stomach Flu (Viral Gastroenteritis).

  • Allow your gastrointestinal tract to settle by not eating for a few hours.
  • Sip small amounts of clear liquids or suck on ice chips if vomiting is still a problem.
  • Give infants and children oral rehydration solutions to replace fluids and lost electrolytes.
  • Gradually reintroduce food, starting with bland, easy-to-digest food, like toast, broth, apples, bananas, and rice.
  • Avoid dairy products, caffeine, and alcohol until recovery is complete.
  • Get plenty of rest.


Stomach Flu Prevention

Prevention is the only way to avoid Stomach Flu (Viral Gastroenteritis). No vaccine is available. You can avoid infection by

  • washing your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after using the bathroom or changing diapers
  • washing your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds before eating
  • disinfecting contaminated surfaces such as counter tops and baby changing stations
  • not eating or drinking foods or liquids that might be contaminated


Hope Through Research

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), through its Division of Digestive Diseases, supports basic and clinical research into gastrointestinal diseases, including epithelial cell injury in the gastrointestinal tract. New vaccines under development may decrease the risk of infection, especially among infants and young children.


Important Points to Remember
  • Stomach Flu (Viral Gastroenteritis) is a highly contagious infection of the intestines caused by one of several viruses.
  • Although sometimes called "stomach flu," Stomach Flu (Viral Gastroenteritis) is not caused by the influenza virus and does not affect the stomach.
  • The main symptoms are watery diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Anyone can get Stomach Flu (Viral Gastroenteritis) through unwashed hands, close contact with an infected person, or food and beverages that contain the virus.
  • Diagnosis is based on the symptoms and a physical examination. Currently only rotavirus can be rapidly detected in a stool test.
  • Stomach Flu (Viral Gastroenteritis) has no specific treatment; antibiotics are not effective against viruses. Treatment focuses on reducing the symptoms and preventing dehydration.
  • The symptoms of dehydration are excessive thirst, dry mouth, dark yellow urine or little or no urine, decreased tears, severe weakness or lethargy, and dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Infants, young children, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems have a higher risk of developing dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea.
  • People with Stomach Flu (Viral Gastroenteritis) should rest, drink clear liquids, and eat easy-to-digest foods.
  • For infants and young children, oral rehydration solutions can replace lost fluids, minerals, and salts.
  • Avoid Stomach Flu (Viral Gastroenteritis) by washing hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers, disinfecting contaminated surfaces, and avoiding foods or liquids that might be contaminated.


For More Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
Phone: 1-800-311–-3435 or 404-639-3534

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