There is no specific treatment for the stomach flu. People can usually manage stomach flu symptoms with home remedies such as resting, drinking fluids, and eating certain foods.

“Stomach flu” is not the flu at all. Instead, the term refers to a group of infections that cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Doctors may also refer to stomach flu as gastroenteritis.

In healthy people and older children, it is often possible to manage stomach flu symptoms at home. However, home remedies are not adequate if symptoms are severe. Additionally, stomach flu in very young, sick, or dehydrated infants and children may be a medical emergency. A parent or caregiver should contact a doctor in these instances.

Read more to learn about the best home remedies for the stomach flu.

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Home remedies are the first line of treatment for the stomach flu, especially if a person has a viral infection. This is because there is no specific medication that can fight viral infections. Instead, healthcare professionals focus on managing symptoms.

Some treatment options include:

Home remedies

Home remedies aim to manage symptoms so they do not get worse. This gives the body time to fight the infection and helps a person feel better.

The main focus of home remedies is preventing dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids. This article will discuss more home remedies in the next section.

Medications

Doctors do not prescribe antibiotics for viral stomach flu, as these will not help. However, antibiotics may treat bacterial forms of the stomach flu, such as Salmonella or Escherichia coli infections.

If a person has a viral infection, a doctor may prescribe drugs to manage symptoms instead of antibiotics. These can include antinausea drugs such as ondansetron or metoclopramide.

Some people may find relief from over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

Medical intervention

In severe cases, a person may need medical attention for monitoring and additional treatment.

Because gastroenteritis can cause vomiting, people with the condition can easily become dehydrated. A doctor may give IV fluids to rehydrate them. They can also administer IV medications.

Hospitalization also allows healthcare professionals to closely monitor a person and recommend the best course of treatment.

The following home remedies may help alleviate gastroenteritis symptoms.

Fluids

Fluids are the most important aspect of treatment for people of all ages.

Infants and children still nursing should continue breastfeeding, chestfeeding, or formula. This can replace lost fluids, provide essential nutrition, and offer comfort.

Older children and adults should focus on drinking plenty of fluids. Some people may find that electrolyte drinks help, especially if they have experienced vomiting. Children may also more readily drink electrolyte drinks or popsicles.

If a person cannot keep fluids down, they have a high risk of dehydration. They should contact a doctor right away.

Herbal remedies

Herbal remedies are not a standard treatment, and there is no evidence that they can cure the stomach flu faster than other home remedies. However, some evidence suggests a few herbal remedies may ease symptoms.

One of these is ginger, a popular spice that may alleviate nausea and help prevent vomiting. A 2021 study found that ginger helped reduce vomiting in young children. People also commonly use it during pregnancy to deal with morning sickness.

People can try ginger lozenges, tea, or cookies.

Another common choice is peppermint. A 2019 paper suggests that eating peppermint candy or inhaling peppermint oil may help reduce nausea.

However, replacing fluids with herbal remedies or formulations is unsafe. The most important treatment is to provide fluids, and any herbal interventions should complement this standard of care.

Dietary changes

Eating too much or eating very spicy or heavy foods may make vomiting and diarrhea worse.

Many doctors recommend trying a bland BRAT diet. This involves:

However, research does not consistently show better outcomes with a BRAT diet than with regular diets. People should listen to their bodies, eat if they feel like it, and make dietary changes based on how their body responds.

Rest

Rest may help people feel better faster, especially since fatigue is a common stomach flu symptom.

Rest also keeps people at home, which reduces the risk of passing on the infection. Avoiding others and practicing frequent handwashing can help limit the spread.

OTC medications

Some people may find relief from OTC medications such as:

  • Fever and pain relievers: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) can relieve fevers and muscle aches.
  • Bismuth salicylate: This ingredient, present in Kaopectate and Pepto-Bismol, can relieve stomach pain.
  • Loperamide: This antidiarrheal ingredient is present in Immodium. It may help reduce the risk of dehydration from diarrhea.

A person should call a pediatrician before giving an infant or child any medication. This includes supplements or OTC drugs.

People should contact a doctor if a person develops signs of serious dehydration. The person may stop urinating, their face may look sunken or dry, or they may seem lethargic or weak. Infants and children may cry without tears.

A person should also contact a doctor if:

  • an ill person cannot keep down any fluids
  • an infant develops vomiting or diarrhea
  • a person with gastroenteritis seems very unwell, for example, if they are lethargic, unable to stay awake, or confused
  • symptoms do not go away within a few days, or a person gets steadily worse
  • the person has a compromised immune system, such as in people with cancer, HIV, or AIDS

The stomach flu refers to a group of viral and bacterial illnesses. It often goes away on its own, and people can usually manage it with home remedies and treatments.

Home treatment can help prevent dehydration and ease symptoms. Rest may give the body time to recover and heal. However, if a person gets significantly worse, develops symptoms of dehydration, or does not improve, they should contact a doctor.