Stomach Flu: How Long Will it Last?

By Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Table of Contents


“Stomach flu” is a term for viral gastroenteritis. This refers to inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

The virus that causes stomach flu enters the body through contaminated food or water, or through contact with an infected person. The symptoms of the stomach flu include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and cramps.

In contrast to influenza, stomach flu is a viral infection of the stomach or intestines that causes nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea.

Some people may even have blood in their stool or vomit blood. Symptoms typically last more than one day and are often mild in nature.

While it is true that these symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for signs of influenza, there are some key differences between stomach flu and influenza: Influenza is a respiratory illness that affects the nose, throat, and lungs.

What is this Stomach Flu?

The flu is a contagious disease that causes symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, and body aches. It’s called “flu” because it’s caused by an influenza virus. However, the stomach flu is not the same thing.

The stomach flu is caused by a different virus than the one that causes the common cold and influenza.

‘Stomach flu is an infection of the stomach and intestines caused by viruses that can be passed from person to person. The most common cause is norovirus. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

This vomiting and diarrhea are not supposed to make you feel this sick. People who have stomach flu are often able to recover in about a week without any treatment at all.

High fever, sore throat, coughing, or fatigue are not symptoms of stomach flu.

Stomach Flu, Viral Types


Viral gastroenteritis by Norovirus is a common incidence. It is highly contagious and can be easily passed from person to person.

The virus spreads through contact with an infected person, contaminated food or water, or touching contaminated surfaces.

Symptoms of norovirus include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain and cramps, headache, fever (sometimes), and muscle aches.

Symptoms usually begin within 24 hours after exposure to the virus and last for one to two days. Most people recover without treatment, but some may need to be hospitalized due to severe dehydration caused by prolonged vomiting or diarrhea.

Noroviruses are also known as Norwalk-like viruses (NLVs), caliciviruses, or winter vomiting diseases.


The children often experience gastroenteritis due to the rota virus.

The virus is transmitted by contact with fecal matter and causes diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps.

Rotavirus gastroenteritis can be prevented by following good hygiene practices such as washing hands thoroughly before eating or preparing food, after using the toilet, after changing diapers, and before giving a child a bottle.

What Are the Symptoms of Stomach Flu?

The stomach flu is a common illness that is caused by viruses.

It causes,

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Mild fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain.

The symptoms usually last for around 2-3 days and can be treated at home with rest and fluids.

Stomach flu is not just a virus that affects the digestive system. It can also cause other symptoms too.

  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • dehydration: it is necessary to drink adequately to avoid hypovolemic shock and dizziness.
  • Reye’s syndrome: seizures, hypoglycemia, loss of consciousness
  • Dry mouth

How to Diagnose Stomach Flu?

There are no special tests to diagnose stomach flu. Diagnosis of the stomach flu is done by taking a stool sample to test for certain types of bacteria or viruses.

If you have been diagnosed with stomach flu, you don’t need special treatment as the gastroenteritis will subside in a few days. Proper rehydration with an oral rehydration solution will ease your symptoms.

If the cause is bacterial, you will need to take antibiotics to treat it.

How Do You Treat a Stomach Flu?

Since antibiotics are ineffective, here’s what you can do to prevent your stomach flu from turning into something more severe:

  • Throw out all of your food immediately upon the appearance of any sort of stomach flu symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, etc.).
  • This is so important that even if you don’t think any food is contaminated with germs or viruses, throw it out anyway! You don’t want to risk getting sick by eating anything else, even if it tastes good.
  • Drink lots of fluids every day. The best way to combat dehydration is through water consumption. You might even consider investing in an electrolyte drink like Gatorade or Pedialyte for when you’re feeling especially thirsty.
  • If your body gets too dry from drinking too much water without replenishing electrolytes along with it (like in those drinks), then it’s time for some serious rehydration!
  • Take care of yourself with regular restorative sleep.
  • Avoid heavy meals that contain high fiber, red meat, fried content, high spice, and dairy products.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks or coffee.
  • Eat bowl-friendly, easy-to-digest meals like bananas, apples, toast, and rice.

Stomach Flu Stage

Stomach flu is a contagious illness in which the virus lasts for 24 hours or less and people recover without treatment.

Antibiotics won’t work on viruses. There are four stages of stomach flu.

Incubation Period

The first stage of stomach flu is the incubation period. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. This can last between one and two days, and patients are highly contagious.

Symptomatic Period

The second stage of stomach flu includes fever, chills, headaches, and muscle aches.

In this stage itself, there are no digestive symptoms at all, but this does not mean that you are recovered from the illness unless you have no other symptoms such as vomiting for 24 hours after eating solid food.

Symptoms Peak

This stage of stomach flu includes excessive vomiting and diarrhea, along with fatigue and lethargy.  Fatigability occurs as a result of low blood sugar levels.

Recovery Stage

The diarrheal symptoms may subside within 24 hours with rota and norovirus. Tough symptoms might subside, but the patients are infectious for a further two weeks as they shed viruses with their stools.

Thus, it is advised to maintain proper hand hygiene and avoid community transmission of the disease.

Spread Prevention

After recovery, it’s important to remember that there are ways to help prevent stomach flu.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water! Not only does this help prevent the spread of germs, but it also helps make the air in your home more sanitary.
  • Avoid touching your face or mouth frequently, especially when you’re not sick! This can spread germs from one person to another, which is why it’s important to keep your hands clean so they don’t spread illness.
  • If you have symptoms of stomach flu, stay away from others as much as possible—especially if they have similar symptoms (e.g., fever). This will help keep the virus under control until it passes naturally.
  • Make sure everyone in your house has been vaccinated against the rotavirus (especially if they’re younger than five years old). The best way to do this is by having them come into a doctor’s office for an annual flu shot.

The Duration of Stomach Flu

The stomach flu is a contagious illness that can be caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria. The most common symptom is nausea, followed by vomiting and diarrhea. The virus usually lasts for 24 hours or less, and people usually recover without treatment.

Some may have longer-term symptoms for 10 days that might require medical attention.

When to Visit the Doctor

If you have stomach flu, you need to rest and stay at home. However, if your symptoms are severe or if you have other signs of serious illness, seeing a medical professional is important.

  • -High fever and a stiff neck
  • -diarrhea (three or more loose stools in 24 hours)
  • -vomiting (10 or more vomits in 24 hours)
  • -have a fever over 101°F (38°C)
  • -muscle aches and pains with joint swelling

But if you’re noticing any of these symptoms, then it’s probably time to go see your doctor.

  • You’ve been sick for three days or more. Stomach flu can last for several days, so if you’re still sick after three days (or more), you should see a doctor.
  • You’re vomiting and having diarrhea often. This can be a sign of dehydration. Then it’s definitely time for an appointment with a doctor!
  • Your symptoms don’t improve over time. If your symptoms do not get better within 24 hours or less after taking medication, then it may be time for an appointment with a doctor!

TeleHealthDoc articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Dr. Pallavi Sharma is one of Melbourne’s best, well respected cosmetic doctors and aims to provide longstanding anti-aging benefits for her clients. With over 11 years experience in Performing cosmetic procedures, Dr. Sharma has lectured medical professionals regarding cosmetic treatments and is heavily involved in providing up to date cosmetic treatments to her clients and friends.
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