How to treat the Stomach Flu >> From an Experienced RN

If it’s a stomach bug or something you ate — there are some proven strategies to limit how much you (or your family) are throwing up and get it to STOP.

woman vomiting

Ew. The flu. I’m talking about the stomach kind (which isn’t the influenza virus at all, actually, that’s just a stomach virus — but that’s a blog for another day). Although, often over quickly (especially if you follow these tips) it’s miserable.  The throwing up and stomach pain, there is nothing worse – am I right? I learned these tips while working pediatric phone triage in a busy pediatrician’s office, we handled many cases of stomach flu. They rarely fail us in this house. Let’s find out what to do when you have the stomach flu!

I also have a podcast with this information that you might prefer to listen to.

Stomach Flu vs Food Poisoning

For all intents and purposes, it doesn’t really matter since you treat them the same way. However, if it’s food poisoning, I might not eat at that same restaurant again.

Fever and/or body aches are stomach flu symptoms, but food poisoning does have similar symptoms.

Both can be treated at home unless you end up with severe dehydration (if you follow my plan you will likely do alright).

How to Stop Throwing Up:

How to lay when you have the stomach flu?

I just make my young children a nice home in the bathroom. I bring in their favorite blanket, a book, and a pillow. I just want them to lay still.  With older children, I have a few barf buckets they can take to their room and LAY DOWN. Sometimes you feel great after you puke, but that’s the time to just lay still and let the healing commence. It really is a good idea to lay still, if that means movies on the iPad on the bathroom floor, so be it.

As for the BEST position — left side (so they say) is the best way, I usually find this to be true. It can also help with heartburn (because of how your stomach is tilted)

Stop Eating:

I don’t let my kids have ANYTHING for an hour after they throw up.  The most important thing is to let the stomach really settle down. That stomach is irritated, that’s why it let you see dinner for the 2nd time. It needs time to simmer down now, stomach cramps are so painful, your stomach needs to rest. If your child needs something for their fever you can get a suppository at the drugstore to keep their stomach clear.

Momeez Choice reached out to me about their Tumeez product line and I thought it was the perfect addition to this conversation! Let’s talk about tummy troubles and how this organic remedy on a stick can help ease sick days for kids and moms (sponsored by Momeez Choice).

Tumeez, tummy soothing pops for kids, are a sick day essential in my home. I’m excited about them, because for kids — there really isn’t a whole lot you can give them — until now! Tumeez are organic soothing lollipops for kids to help relieve heartburn, acid indigestion, and an upset tummy.

Tumeez comes in a variety pack of two delicious flavors — Grape and Apple — and is available on Amazon. They also have a sister product Lolleez for sore throats (I talk about them in my sore throat post)!

Note on how I would use them: I would wait until their stomach settles a bit (aka, an hour without vomiting) before I gave one of these. Tumeez is good option for any type of tummy trouble and also for when your kid is “so hungry” but NOT ready for solid food. Love these because they work and also they put a smile back on my kid’s face because…hello, lollipop… 

What to eat with the stomach flu?

Clear Liquids

After the hour, I let them have small sips of clear liquids. A clear liquid is anything you can see through including sports drinks. Breast milk does count if your child is breastfed, You want something that won’t hurt like the dickens if you see it again (like grape juice, ouch!).

I usually do-uncarbonated sprite (you can take out a lot of the bubbles by pouring it from one cup to the other for a few minutes, sometimes the carbonation bugs me at that point), or ginger ale (which really can help with nausea).  

Small sips here, a tablespoon’ish at a time. Don’t go crazy. I also don’t recommend ice chips or straight water. For some reason water seems to be really hard on empty stomachs, this includes room-temperature bottled water. Try:

  • Gatorade
  • Sprite
  • Ginger ale (I would decarbonate the soda as mentioned above)
  • Kool-Aid, something like that.
  • Sometimes apple juice, but often fruit juice is more acidic…

If your child is under 1 you might want to try Pedialyte (although that stuff sometimes doesn’t taste the best…). If they’re over 6 months I have watered down Gatorade 1/2 with water.

I’d ask your pediatrician what they recommend for the little babes – ours usually recommended clear Pedialyte (which tastes horrible – so good luck with that). If you have a baby under 2 months (possibly even 6 months) throwing up (not spitting up), you should probably get seen by your healthcare provider, they can dehydrate quickly. I’d maybe keep a pack of the powder on hand if I had a little one — just in case.

Or, try a fancy water bottle they get to use when they’re sick (and won’t spill on their beds while they rest).

Does Sprite help with stomach flu?

It can, but no more than any other clear liquid. Ginger Ale CAN help with nausea (but only if it’s made with actual ginger, which many are not).

No real food for at least 12 hours after the stomach flu

That’s right. I REALLY try to stick with clear liquids for 12 hours. If they puke in the morning and seem to be OK by dinner time I may advance them to…

Proceed with Caution on the BRAT diet

  • Bananas
  • Rice
  • Applesauce
  • Toast

It’s really anything white and non-fatty (avoid dairy products). Pasta, saltines, pears, or anything of that variety will also work. You still want that stomach to heal. Often I give my kids a small bowl of rice chex to see if they can keep that down.

By breaking my cardinal rules you run the risk of extending the vomiting even longer. Stick with these, tell your kids/husband/yourself that it is helping your stomach heal, (if needed, remind them of how bad the abdominal cramps were), and stick to the plan. Encourage plenty of rest, you can’t really think about food if you’re sleeping.

What to watch for with the stomach flu:

Signs of dehydration to watch for that are worrisome are a lack of tears or wetness in their mouth. Extreme lethargy. Sometimes I try just a medicine dropper to drop in a tablespoon of fluids every hour into them. That seems to be enough to sneak in some fluids without buggin’ the tum-tum. I push plenty of fluids as the most important thing to prevent symptoms of dehydration, this doesn’t mean a sick person should drink a gallon of water. I think it’s very important to get fluids in and keep them down, this can mean just a tablespoon at a time while the stomach is settling down.

If you go to the hospital, the main thing they’ll try is an IV and I’d like to hold that off for my kids as long as possible. Again, really tiny kids will need to be seen sooner. 🙁

Now, vomiting isn’t ALWAYS the stomach flu. Sometimes kids vomit when they have too much mucus in their tummy, cry too much (Princess P is famous for that!), or just want to make your day miserable. So make sure that it’s really their stomach before you start all this.

Related Post: Are essential oils essential?

Either way, after a puke (unless it’s obviously from a cold and a lot of mucus in their tummy, as liquids will help that) I give NO fluids for 1 hour. I make them rest and calm down.

Your washing machine will thank you. 🙂

Here are some other posts you might like:

Stomach Flu/Food Poisoning FAQ’s

How long does the stomach flu last?

Usually less than 24 hours. The beauty is that you can feel SO sick, and within a day feel almost back to normal (vs a cold, where you can feel miserable for quite a while.

Apple cider Vinegar for the Stomach Flu

I guess this gets googled a lot. It would be like giving a probiotic as it is a fermented food. I certainly wouldn’t take it until I was DONE throwing up. It would not feel good to come up a 2nd time.

How does the stomach flu spread?

It spreads by the products of the stomach flu — so vomit particles and diarrhea. It is quite contagious, the infected person should be very cautious when being around others. When possible avoid close contact with infected people (this can be difficult with a small family member but should be easier with older adults). People of all ages need good hand hygiene. Wash your hands, avoid touching your face, etc. Alcohol hand gels can be a good thing to have on hand and in cars, etc.

Probiotics for the stomach flu

Probiotics would be good to take AFTER you’re done with the stomach flu. It will fill your gut with “good” bacteria!

What to take for the stomach flu?

I don’t recommend any specific medication. You can treat the symptoms, or talk with your doctor.

How contagious is the stomach flu?

It’s pretty darn contagious, so wash your hands well!

How long is the stomach flu contagious?

As long as you have symptoms. That time frame will vary.

If you liked this post, be sure to grab my best family health tips:

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