Every winter it seems that the stomach flu hits the U.S. It spreads quickly and with determination to wipe out everyone in its path. When it hits your home, what should you do? Viruses are very contagious and can spread quickly, so if you or someone in your home is sick, try to isolate them away from other people. Try to keep them in one room and not let them roam all over the house, just spreading germs. Also, clean up after them constantly, using sprays like Lysol, cleaning wipes, bleaching dishes, etc. Clean remotes, phones, keyboards, furniture, as well as the usual bathrooms, sheets and towels.
If it is truly a stomach virus, and there is vomiting, then stop all fluids and food for a time until the vomiting slows or ceases. Ice chips can be used once the vomiting has slowed. Ice chips melt and absorb mostly in the tissues of the mouth allowing for some hydration without filling the stomach with fluid to further aggravate vomiting. A liquid like ginger ale, clear soda or even electrolyte drink can be added to the ice chips for some flavor and added energy. Be careful not to use really sugary drinks as that can actually upset the stomach again.
Other things to try to replenish fluids in your body are popsicles and gelatin. These are good especially for kids. There are even popsicles available that are made from rehydration fluids, or you can make your own at home by freezing the liquid in a container at home. If the person who is sick, especially a child, has not urinated in six hours time, then they may be getting dehydrated and a call to the doctor may be helpful.
The most important thing is rest. Do not push yourself to get better, do too much too early or do anything strenuous right off the bat. The virus will need to run its course to some extent and then your body will begin to recover. Be careful not to use products and medications too early in the illness that could prevent the virus from getting out of your system. For example, it may be a good idea to let the diarrhea go for awhile before taking anti-diarrheal medication. Also, there are anti-nausea medications that can be used, but once again only after the symptoms have been present for a time. Your doctor can help you with that. Many say it is best not to even take any medications unless there is uncontrolled vomiting or diarrhea leading to dehydration.
Once the symptoms have stopped an ABC diet or BRAT diet should be followed, even for adults. Since the lining of the stomach can change with a virus, it is important to ease back into eating regular foods and not rush it. ABC stands for applesauce, bananas and cereal, usually rice cereal. These are all easy on the stomach and digest well. There are also some vitamins and minerals that can be absorbed when eating these foods, especially bananas. BRAT is almost the same including bananas, rice cereal and applesauce, but includes toast as well. Just don’t use a lot of butter on that toast! It is also a good idea to stay away from or limit all dairy and acidic foods for a few days.