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Stomach flu is the common name for viral gastroenteritis. The name is misleading because influenza — or the flu — affects your respiratory system, while viral gastroenteritis impacts your digestive system. Stomach flu causes inflammation and irritation of your stomach and small and large intestines.
For severe symptoms of stomach flu in Northern California, see your doctor or visit a Dignity Health North State emergency room. Our ER doctors and staff can quickly provide personalized treatment and get you on the road to recovery.
Don’t have a primary care doctor? Find a Doctor online and schedule an appointment.
Common Stomach Flu Symptoms
Watery diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting are the main symptoms of stomach flu. Additional symptoms include fever, chills, body aches, headache, abdominal pain, cramping, and bloating.
Stomach flu can also cause dehydration. Be on the lookout for dark urine, thirst, fatigue, unusually infrequent urination, dizziness, and lightheadedness. If you are dehydrated, your skin will not flatten out normally after pinching. Young children and the elderly are at most risk for dehydration.
Signs of dehydration in infants and young children include no wet diapers for three hours, dry mouth and tongue, no tears with crying, and sunken eyes, cheeks, or soft spots.
See your Dignity Health North State doctor right away for signs of dehydration, as well as the following symptoms:
- High fever
- Bloody diarrhea or vomit
- Severe abdominal pain
- Inability to keep down liquids
- Diarrhea or vomiting for more than two days
These can be signs of more serious medical conditions.
What Causes Stomach Flu?
Stomach flu is caused by viral infections. Norovirus is the most common virus in adults. Children are most likely to be affected by rotavirus. Other viruses known to cause stomach flu include calicivirus, adenovirus, and astrovirus.
How to Treat Stomach Flu
Most cases of viral gastroenteritis can be treated at home. Because antibiotics have no effect on viruses, the goal of stomach flu treatment is to manage symptoms and prevent dehydration.
Treatment involves drinking plenty of fluids and replacing electrolytes. If nausea or vomiting prevents you from drinking large amounts, take small sips or suck on ice cubes to stay hydrated. Stay away from caffeinated drinks. Sports drinks, broths, or rehydration solutions are better choices.
Over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicines can be used by adults. But, these medications are not recommended for children.
Stomach flu usually clears up within a couple of days. Ease into your regular diet. Start with foods that are easy to digest, such as crackers, toast, potatoes, rice, and bananas.
You can best prevent viral gastroenteritis by regularly washing your hands, especially after bathroom use and before eating.
If you need immediate care, Dignity Health North State emergency services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Use our InQuicker tool to choose your estimated arrival time and wait at home until then.
Dignity Health North State provides unparalleled care whenever you need it, including help for severe symptoms of stomach flu, in Mt. Shasta, Red Bluff, and Redding, CA.