Health & Medicine

Got stomach flu? Uh, no you don’t, but here’s how to treat it

“Stomach flu” is a misnomer, but the illness is real.
“Stomach flu” is a misnomer, but the illness is real. TNS

Before we get to the remedy, here’s the reality: There’s no such thing as “stomach flu.”

“‘Stomach flu’ is a misnomer,” says Dr. Cindy Kermott, a Mayo Clinic preventive-medicine physician. “It is just a common term for a viral gastroenteritis. And everyone has probably had it — when you have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.”

Kermott says flu settles in your chest — not your stomach.

“It has to do with the lungs,” she says. “You get the dry cough, the fevers, the myalgias, where you feel like a train has hit you. That is influenza.”

So how do you treat what we’ve been calling “stomach flu?”

“For the first few hours, you want to avoid anything by mouth,” Kermott says. “You just want to rest and have your stomach settle a little bit.”

After that, she says, stay hydrated. Sip on a clear fluid. Water is best, but clear sodas, broths or weak teas are OK, too. If you can’t tolerate liquids, try chewing on ice chips.

“It’s important to maintain your hydration,” she says.

When your stomach has fully settled, try eating small amounts of easily digestible foods: soda crackers, unbuttered toast, gelatin or a banana. Avoid fatty and spicy foods until you’re fully recovered.

Finally, Kermott says, keep listening to your body.

“Symptoms exist because it’s telling your body what to do,” she says. “It’s telling you to slow down.”