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3 tips for surviving the stomach virus

3 tips for surviving the stomach virus

Maybe you’re not usually one to fall prey to seasonal viruses. You do what you can to stay healthy—work out regularly, try and eat a balanced diet, and limit the amount of time spent around others who are sick. You wash your hands regularly at home, at work and in public, and clean countertops and other surfaces with a bleach solution.

Then you pick up a stomach bug, and learn you can’t make yourself invincible.

A stomach virus—sometimes called the stomach flu, though it’s not a form of influenza—has symptoms that (not surprisingly) are associated with your gastrointestinal system: stomach cramps, watery diarrhea, nausea and perhaps a fever. It can take up to three days after you contract the virus for those symptoms to show up.

When should I see a doctor for a stomach virus?

Because those symptoms also crop up in other common ailments, you may not realize right away what you’re dealing with. That’s why it’s important you know when to see the doctor—and the answer to that question varies based on age.


Grown-ups should contact a doctor if they’re experiencing the following:

  • For 24 hours, can’t keep liquids down
  • Vomiting or diarrhea that lasts more than two days
  • Blood in vomit or bowel movements
  • Dehydration, indicated by excessive thirst, dry mouth, deep yellow urine or little to no urine
  • Severe stomach pain
  • A fever of 104 F (40 C) or higher


Kids should be taken to a doctor right away if they have:

  • Fever of 102 F (38.9 C) or higher
  • Blood in their diarrhea
  • Dehydration, as indicated above plus crying without tears
  • A lot of discomfort, pain, tiredness or irritability


Infants should also be taken to a doctor immediately if they exhibit the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Haven’t wet the diaper in six hours
  • Bloody stools or severe diarrhea
  • Sunken soft spot on top of their head
  • Dry mouth or crying without tears
  • Unusually sleepy, drowsy or unresponsive

Note that while spitting up is an everyday occurrence for a baby, vomiting is not. It is often a symptom of a condition that requires medical attention.

How to get through a stomach virus

For adults who aren’t exhibiting severe symptoms, there are ways to make dealing with a stomach virus (somewhat) more bearable.

1. Stay hydrated

The constant vomiting can lead to dehydration, which can lead to other health problems. Try to sip on water every hour to replenish what your body is losing. Unfortunately it may not always stay down, but it’s still important to quench your body’s thirst during the fight.

It’s also important to replace the electrolytes lost through dehydration. This can be done with sports drinks or rehydration solutions. If you choose a sports drink, be sure to dilute them with water—the sugar and sodium in these drinks can sometimes lead your body to further dehydrate itself.

2. Eat lightly

Often times, eating sounds miserable during the stomach virus but your body needs to replenish nutrients lost to constant vomiting and diarrhea. Some good options are clear broths, crackers, bananas and chicken. It’s just as important to avoid eating certain things, including dairy, alcohol, caffeine and fatty or spicy foods.

3. Kick your feet up

No, not actual kicking. Try and find ways to relax and rest while staying as comfortable as possible. Throw on your favorite TV show or movie and lie back and relax. The time between trips to the bathroom is going to feel sacred, so enjoy it and try to take it easy.

Here’s to hoping you don’t have to battle the “beast in the belly,” but if you do, remember it’s a marathon—not a sprint. See the doctor if your symptoms call for it. Otherwise, gear up and ride out a mild stomach bug so you’ll be able to get back to 100% and enjoy the things you love.

If symptoms persist or worsen, contact your primary care physician.

Find a doctor near you today.