What Is the Quickest Way to Get Rid of a Stomach Bug?

Reviewed on 10/21/2020

What Is a Stomach Bug?

You can treat the symptoms of a stomach virus with varying degrees of success, but usually you just have to wait until your body clears the virus to feel better.
You can treat the symptoms of a stomach virus with varying degrees of success, but usually you just have to wait until your body clears the virus to feel better.

Viral gastroenteritis, sometimes called a “stomach bug” or the “stomach flu” is a viral infection of the stomach and intestines that can cause diarrhea and vomiting

What Are Symptoms of a Stomach Bug?

The hallmark symptoms of a stomach bug (viral gastroenteritis) usually start suddenly, can be severe, and include: 

Other symptoms of a stomach bug (viral gastroenteritis) include:

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Thirst
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Dark yellow urine

What Causes a Stomach Bug?

A stomach bug (viral gastroenteritis) is usually caused by viruses, including: 

Viral gastroenteritis peaks in the winter and spring when these viruses are most actively spreading in the community.

The viruses that cause stomach bugs are spread from person to person by:

  • Touching an infected person 
  • Touching a surface with the virus on it
  • Consuming foods or drinks with the virus in them 

How Is a Stomach Bug Diagnosed?

A stomach bug (viral gastroenteritis) is usually diagnosed with a history and physical exam. 

Tests to check for which virus may be causing the infection include:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Stool tests

What Is the Treatment for a Stomach Bug?

There is no real cure for a stomach bug (viral gastroenteritis) because it is caused by a virus. Most people don’t need medical treatment and symptoms will go away on their own within a few days, though in some people symptoms may last up to 10 days. 

Antibiotics are not used to treat viral gastroenteritis since it is caused by viruses, and antibiotics are only used to treat infections caused by bacteria. 

While medical treatment is often not needed, there may be ways you can help relieve symptoms more quickly. 

  • Drink adequate fluids to prevent dehydration
    • Adults and older children can drink sports drinks
    • Young children and babies can drink an oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte
    • Avoid drinks with a lot of sugar, such as juices and sodas, which can worsen diarrhea
  • If you can keep food down: 
    • Eat mild, bland foods such as rice and bananas
    • If you can tolerate it, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may be consumed
    • Avoid foods with a lot of fat and sugar, which can aggravate symptoms
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications
    • Adults under age 65 who have diarrhea, no fever, and no blood in the stool may take loperamide (Imodium) to stop diarrhea for 1 to 2 days
    • Adults over age 65, or patients who have a fever or blood in the stool should not take loperamide without first talking to their doctor
    • Children should not be given medicines to stop diarrhea

Patients who have severe dehydration might need intravenous (IV) fluids.

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Reviewed on 10/21/2020
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