How to Treat the Stomach Flu

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The stomach flu is best treated through steady hydration, and children should be treated with specially-made rehydration solutions. Learn about ways to compensate for the vomiting that comes with the stomach flu with help from a practicing pediatrician in this free video on the stomach flu.

Part of the Video Series: Medical Conditions & Treatments
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Dr. David Hill and today we're going to be talking about how to treat the stomach flu. Now when we say stomach flu, we really mean some sort of viral gastrointestinal illness that presents with vomiting, diarrhea, or both. I'm going to concentrate on the vomiting because we're talking about the stomach and that's where vomiting comes from. So recurrent vomiting is present in a lot of viral illnesses. Of course, it can be present in other very severe and life-threatening illnesses like appendicitis or gastric ulcer disease or pancreatitis, so if you have something that is going on too long, more than twenty-four hours, threatening to cause dehydration or associated with extreme pain or fever, you really need to seek care. That's the most important thing. In terms of treating stomach flu or vomiting, you really want to maintain hydration at all costs. The key thing to know here is that even though it may feel like you're vomiting out the entire contents of your stomach, you're really not. At best, we can probably get about sixty percent of what's in there out with a with a given episode of vomiting. That means if you can keep fluid going in, you can often get enough fluid in to prevent dehydration. Now in infants, we start with specially made rehydration solutions. The best is World Health Organization Rehydration solution but that's not really commercially available. So we go with weaker alternatives to the same thing such as Pedialyte or Kaolectrolyte or Infalyte. These are all solutions that are balanced solutions of salt, water, and sugar. You need all three to get water into the body. You want to concentrate, especially with your child, on small, frequent sips. You don't want to stretch out the stomach and put a large volume in there. So you think about giving a teaspoon every two to five minutes. An easy way, if you're sitting on the couch watching television is to get your child to take a sip with every commercial. If you're the one doing it, you can do that with yourself, take a sip with every commercial and see how you hydrate if and if you do vomit, some will go down. For older children, you don't necessarily have to use things like Pedialyte. You can alternate between Gatorade, chicken soup, flat soda, and fruit juices with one thing to remember. If your child or you is having diarrhea, the undigested sugars and fruit juices and sodas may make that diarrhea worse, so I would stay away from that. But I would make sure that there's a decent amount of both salt and a little bit of sugar in the fluids that you are taking. Now if you get extreme pain, if you get a fever greater than a hundred-two, if you have enough diarrhea with the vomiting that you're in danger of dehydration, you really need to seek care. If you or your child goes more than eight hours without making urine, that's another good reason to seeked care. If your child's mouth is dry, if he or she cries without making tears, those are all signs that he or she needs urgent medical attention for the stomach flu. But with these measures, you should be able to get through a typical case of viral gastroenteritis without needing to see a doctor. Talking about how to treat the stomach flu, I'm Dr. David Hill.

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