Viral gastroenteritis, or “stomach flu,” is a condition that causes inflammation in the intestines and stomach. Seasonal influenza viruses do not cause stomach flu. Therefore, the flu vaccine cannot prevent cases of stomach flu.

Several different viral infections can lead to stomach flu. The most common viral cause of stomach flu is the norovirus. Between 19–21 million instances of stomach flu occur each year in the United States due to norovirus infection.

Since seasonal influenza viruses do not cause stomach flu, the flu shot does not prevent stomach flu. However, there are some vaccines available that work against certain viruses that can cause stomach flu.

This article will explore flu shots and stomach flu in more detail. In addition, it discusses how to treat stomach flu, how to prevent it, and when to speak with a doctor.

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Scientists design annual flu shots to prevent people from experiencing infections with the four most common influenza viruses. The types of influenza viruses that are the most common change every season, so flu shots change with every flu season.

Influenza viruses cause respiratory flu. They do not cause stomach flu, or viral gastroenteritis, which affects the gastrointestinal system. Many viruses can cause gastroenteritis, such as:

Read on to learn more about which viruses can cause stomach flu.

Other causes of gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestines, include parasites, bacteria, and chemicals.

Learn more about influenza A versus B.

Rotavirus vaccines

Although the flu shot does not prevent stomach flu, there are two types of rotavirus vaccine available in the U.S. that can prevent the condition. Vaccines for this type of virus can help protect infants and young children from developing stomach flu.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) suggests that an infant should receive the first dose of rotavirus vaccination within their first 15 weeks of life for maximum efficacy. They should receive the entire vaccine course before they are 8 months old.

To summarize, while the flu vaccine cannot prevent stomach flu, there are two vaccines that may help prevent infants from contracting rotavirus, which is one possible cause of stomach flu.

Some individuals who receive the flu shot may experience gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea. Flu vaccines also come in the form of a nasal spray. Children who receive this nasal spray may experience vomiting. A person can discuss which option is best with a doctor.

For most people, the flu vaccine causes only mild side effects. These may include:

  • soreness, swelling, and redness around the injection site
  • a fever
  • muscle aches
  • headaches
  • a runny or congested nose

These symptoms typically resolve without additional medical care. A person should discuss other potential side effects with a healthcare professional before receiving the flu shot if they have concerns.

Stomach flu can spread between people with an infection and other individuals, for example, by pressing an elevator button, touching a handrail, or sharing utensils. Eating contaminated food or water can also transmit pathogens that cause gastroenteritis.

There are many ways to prevent the spread of stomach flu. These may include:

  • washing hands frequently, especially:
    • before and after handling, preparing, or eating food
    • after using the restroom
    • after changing diapers
  • avoiding touching the face and mouth
  • disinfecting shared utilities, such as toilets or sinks
  • washing any clothes or linens that may have come into contact with vomit or stool from a person experiencing stomach flu

Stomach flu typically responds well to treatment at home without medical intervention. This includes getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated by replacing lost fluids and electrolytes.

Drinking sports drinks, broth, water, and fruit juices can all help prevent dehydration. People experiencing severe dehydration or diarrhea may need to drink rehydration solutions.

Individuals who do not respond to at-home care should visit a healthcare professional for further treatment.

Learn more about what electrolyte drinks are and how to make them.

Anyone experiencing stomach flu symptoms should consider speaking with a doctor if their symptoms worsen or do not go away with rest and hydration. Common symptoms to look out for include:

Most people with stomach flu do not experience severe complications, the most common complication is dehydration. People should seek immediate medical attention if they experience any signs of dehydration or any severe or worsening symptoms.

The flu shot protects individuals against influenza viruses. While these viruses do cause respiratory flu, they do not cause stomach flu. Because of this, the flu shot cannot prevent stomach flu.

It is not possible to vaccinate against all possible causes of stomach flu. However, there are two vaccines that can protect infants against rotavirus, which is one type of virus that causes stomach flu.

Most cases of stomach flu resolve on their own with at-home care. However, individuals who experience symptoms that do not go away or certain symptoms, such as severe dehydration, should visit a doctor as soon as possible.