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The flu is caused by a virus, and it can produce different symptoms in different people. Some people develop a sore throat, cough, and nasal congestion similar to a common cold, which is called "upper respiratory flu." The stomach flu is often called "intestinal flu" and the symptoms include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and a general sick feeling.

To treat the stomach flu, it is important to remember that antibiotics such as penicillin do not work on the flu (stomach or upper respiratory) because antibiotics ONLY kill bacteria. Pencillin cannot kill a virus such as the flu. It is your body that is the best defense in fighting the flu. This is one of those things where you actually do have to "trust yourself."

You can help your body combat the flu by getting as much rest as possible. If you have to do any activities, make sure they are light activities and rest as soon as you get tired. Stay home from work, unless your symptoms are mild. You'll recover faster that way, and you won't risk infecting others at work.

You should also drink adequate fluids to avoid dehydration -- but that will take some care when your symptoms are nausea and diarrhea. So let's cover what you can do to relieve these symptoms.

Stomach flu (virus)

When your stomach is upset, the last thing it needs is food. If you feel nauseated, give your stomach a rest. Don't eat or drink anything for about two hours. If you are vomiting, don't eat or drink anything for four hours. Then begin taking small sips of water and gradually work up to small amounts -- half a cup or less -- of Seven-Up, ginger ale, or Jell-O. Do this for four to eight hours. If you feel like it, try eating saltine crackers or dry toast. Don't start to eat other solid foods for at least 24 hours. Doing this could make you nauseated again.

You can also try taking the anti-nausea drug called Dramamine if you are sure that you are not pregnant. Dramamine is not safe to take during pregnancy. This non-prescription medication is available at drug stores, and can be used as directed. If these measures don't control your nausea, you should contact your health care provider. You should also call if you are taking daily medication for any chronic medical condition and nausea prevents you from doing this.

Another common symptom of stomach flu is diarrhea. If you develop diarrhea, don't eat or drink anything for four hours. Then start with sips of water and work up gradually, over several hours, to small amounts of Seven-Up, ginger ale, Jell-O, or bouillon. Again, you can also try saltines or dry toast. But don't eat other solid foods for 24 to 48 hours. These foods will just stimulate the diarrhea. Sometimes dairy products may also stimulate diarrhea after the initial flu, and therefore, it may be wise to stay away from dairy products for a few weeks.

After the first 24 to 48 hours, gradually resume eating solid foods. Meanwhile, you can use the non-prescription medication Donagel or Kaopectate, as directed on the label, to help control diarrhea.

With diarrhea, you should call if you don't improve after three days -- or if the diarrhea gets worse. Also call if your diarrhea is bloody, if you have severe abdominal cramps associated with nausea, vomiting and fever, or if you are ill after having recently returned from a trip to another country.

Please remember these key points:

  • Stomach flu can have different symptoms, but the common ones are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Only your body can cure this condition, but you can help it do the job by getting plenty of rest.
  • For nausea and vomiting, stop eating for two to four hours, then gradually introduce small amounts of water and other fluids. Avoid most solid foods for 24 hours.
  • For diarrhea, don't eat or drink for four hours; then gradually increase your intake of fluids. Avoid most solid foods for 24 to 48 hours.
  • If your symptoms are severe, unusual, or persistent, call your health care provider for further advice.

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**This web site's goal is to provide you with information that may be useful in attaining optimal health. Nothing in it is meant as a prescription or as medical advice. You should check with your physician before implementing any changes in your exercise or lifestyle habits, especially if you have physical problems or are taking medications of any kind.