What To Do For The Stomach Flu

By Susan Bradt, M.D.

Acute gastroenteritis (AKA the stomach flu or stomach bug) is a very common infection in childhood. It is most typically caused by a contagious virus and can result in diarrhea alone or vomiting plus diarrhea.

The symptoms can last anywhere from 24 hrs to longer than 2 weeks and the symptoms can often wax and wane during the illness.

In some cases, it can lead to dehydration, which if severe, could require hospitalization for intravenous fluids. In general though, it is a mild illness that can be managed at home with supportive care.


Here are some things you can do to help support yourself or your child through the illness:

  • Start a probiotic – has been proven to lessen symptoms and shorten the duration of illness
  • Start Saccharomyces Boulardii within 48 hrs of developing diarrhea – proven to lessen diarrhea and speed recovery
  • Stay hydrated; encourage fluids as much as possible.
    • When there is significant vomiting or diarrhea, a pediatric electrolyte fluid is best. Otherwise, water or coconut water can be used.
    • If you child is drinking plenty of fluids and urinating normally, great! If not, frequent but small amounts of fluids is the best way to treat dehydration and try and avoid the hospital. An example could be 1 tsp every 2-3 minutes for 1 hr then wait 15 min and start at 2 tsp every 3 minutes for the next hour. If you are worried about dehydration, you should contact your health provider for more specifics based on your child’s weight.
  • Your child’s normal diet can be continued during the illness if they are willing to eat. Avoid fruit juices and limit dairy. If they do not want to eat or if food causes vomiting, stick with just liquids as above.
  • Wash your hands – the best method to prevent spread to household contacts


When should you seek care from your medical provider?

  • If your child has a high fever or significant abdominal pain, they should see their doctor right away.
  • If your child has signs of dehydration such as decrease in urination, few or no tears when crying, dizziness or lethargy.
  • If diarrhea is lasting longer than 2 weeks.

Most children and adults recover easily from a stomach flu and their immune systems are stronger the next time.  If you are concerned and need guidance or reassurance beyond the tips noted above, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 828-251-2700.

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