How to treat a 24-hour stomach virus

Updated June 13, 2017

The stomach flu -- we've all had it. Also called gastroenteritis, it is the irritation of the stomach and the intestines accompanied by diarrhoea, vomiting, and fever. Although vomiting and fever are not present every time, diarrhoea is always part of the equation. Gastroenteritis often retreats in a few days, thus the name "24-hour stomach virus." However, there are a few things you can do to sooth away the time.

Stop eating. Allowing your digestive track to rest is key to getting over gastroenteritis faster. If you keep putting food into a gastrointestinal track that is actively vomiting and having diarrhoea, then all you're doing is stressing the digestive track lining over and over again -- prolonging the illness. Forgo all solid foods. That includes grandma's chicken noodle soup and saltine crackers. Don't give in to old wives' tales and don't feed an irritated gut. Believe it not, you can go without food for a while.

Sip small amounts of clear liquids or suck on ice chips when you're able. The key here is 'small amounts'. Large amounts of water will irritate the stomach lining. Plain water has a harder time being absorbed during illness, as opposed to water that has some sugar and minerals in it. However, too much sugar will worsen diarrhoea. Stay away from sodas, Kool-Aid (which contain food colourings that irritate the stomach lining), and juices. Pedialyte TM and similar "rehydration formulas" remain the best options. They have water with just enough sugar and certain minerals. The sugar will provide energy, and the minerals will help the body absorb water better.

Give infants and children rehydration formulas that are intended for them. Children can dehydrate much faster than adults. It's important to replace the lost fluids and electrolytes as soon as possible. This doesn't mean to force fluids on children or babies, but again, as soon as the child can tolerate it, begin with small amounts of Pedialyte TM or try tiny ice chips. Don't try to force them to eat any solid foods; hydration is more important that nutrition at this point.

Reintroduce foods slowly -- after the vomiting has stopped. Start with bland, easy-to-digest foods from the BRAT diet, an acronym for: broth and bananas, rice, apples, and toast. Avoid all dairy products, caffeine and alcohol until full recovery is attained.

Rest. Staying down isn't always easy when your stomach has you in and out of the bathroom with vomiting and diarrhoea. But rest is important because it decreases the energy demands on your body, allowing your body to use its full resources to fight off the virus and heal the gastrointestinal track. Inside, your body is killing viruses, forming new red and white blood cells, and restoring the damaged digestive tissue. It doesn't need to waste energy on anything else right now. Listen to music, read a book, or watch a movie -- just stay on the couch or in bed as much as possible.


Call the doctor for any concerns you have about your child's flu symptoms.

Things You'll Need

  • Pedialyte TM
  • Re-hydration formulas
  • Ice chips
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About the Author

Julie Webb Kelley is a registered nurse with a bachelor's degree in communications. In the last 20 years she has written for newspapers, hospitals and websites. As a breast cancer conqueror, Webb Kelley's passion is writing about women's health and wellness, children's health, and alternative approaches to medicine.