The Stages Of Stomach Flu (Viral gastroenteritis) – How Long Does It Last?


Stomach flu, also known as viral gastroenteritis, is a common illness affecting millions of people yearly. It is caused by a virus that attacks the gastrointestinal system, leading to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. In this article, we will discuss the different stages of stomach flu and what you can expect during each stage.

What Is Stomach Flu? How Do You Get Rid Of A Stomach Virus In 24 Hours?

Stomach Flu

Stomach flu is a viral infection that affects the gastrointestinal system. It is caused by a variety of viruses, including norovirus and rotavirus. The virus attacks the lining of the stomach and intestines, leading to inflammation and irritation. This can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

Symptoms Of Stomach Flu

The symptoms of stomach flu can vary from person to person, but they typically include:

☑️ Nausea And Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are stomach flu symptoms. Inflammation in the stomach and intestines triggers the body’s defenses to kill this infection. The stomach flu often causes dehydration from vomiting. Hydration is key for stomach flu. Small amounts of clear drinks are required to replenish vomited fluids. Fluid replenishment minimizes dehydration. Focus on water, electrolytes, and clear broths for recovery.

☑️ Diarrhea

Stomach flu causes frequent, watery bowel movements. This virus hinders the intestines from absorbing water and nutrients, creating loose stools. The main concern with diarrhea is dehydration, thus fluid supplementation is essential. Electrolyte solutions or clear broths may reduce diarrhea-related dehydration. These restore healing water and minerals. Hydrate to prevent diarrhea.

☑️ Abdominal Pain And Cramps

Moderate to severe abdominal discomfort is common with stomach flu. Stomach spasms and aches from digestive system inflammation worsen the sickness. Taking over-the-counter medicines may help temporarily, but see a doctor first. Some suffer mild stomach cramps, others severe inflammatory pain. This range of symptoms underscores stomach flu’s distinctiveness and necessity for individualized therapy.

☑️ Fever And Chills

Most infections raise body temperature, including stomach flu. The body’s natural response against illness is fever, which may produce weakness and fatigue. As the body controls temperature, fever generates chills. Over-the-counter fever reducers may help, but excessive fevers may suggest a severe disease.

☑️ Headache And Muscle Aches

Side effects of stomach flu extend beyond the gastrointestinal tract. Stomach flu patients often have headaches and muscle discomfort. The body’s virus-induced inflammation creates these symptoms. Rest, water, and OTC medicines may help, but seek medical attention if symptoms persist. The body’s complicated response to stomach flu causes headaches and muscle discomfort. Infection-induced inflammation may worsen this illness’s systemic symptoms.

☑️ Fatigue

Due to immune system stimulation, stomach flu produces fatigue and drowsiness. Vomiting, diarrhea, and fever sap energy. Rest and drinks help recover in such cases. Check with a doctor if fatigue continues or worsens.

☑️ Loss of Appetite

Stomach flu usually causes a loss of appetite due to nausea and abdominal discomfort. Staying hydrated is crucial, but eating may make nausea worse. Start with bland, easily digested crackers, rice, or bananas to maintain this delicate balance. When symptoms improve, a normal diet may be resumed.

☑️ Dehydration

Dehydration may aggravate stomach flu. Vomiting, diarrhea, and fever deplete fluids and electrolytes. Dark urine, infrequent urination, dry mouth, and dizziness suggest dehydration. In dehydration, oral salts replace electrolytes. In severe dehydration, intravenous fluids may be required, requiring medical attention.

Causes Of Stomach Flu

How Long Is Stomach Flu Contagious

Stomach flu is caused by a variety of viruses, including norovirus and rotavirus. These viruses are highly contagious and can be spread through contact with an infected person or contaminated surfaces. You can also get infected by eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

How Long Is Stomach Flu Contagious?

Stomach flu is highly contagious and can be spread from person to person. You are most contagious during the first few days of the illness when you are experiencing symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. You can continue to be contagious for up to two weeks after your symptoms have resolved.

How Long Does Stomach Flu Last?

The typical duration of a stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis) episode is about 3-7 days from the start to feeling completely better. However, symptoms tend to follow a timeline where the most acute phase with vomiting and diarrhea lasts about 1-2 days.

Specifically, once infected by one of the stomach flu viruses like norovirus, most people experience 12-60 hours of intense nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and watery diarrhea along with fatigue and body aches. This acute phase with severe gastrointestinal symptoms tends to peak at around 24 hours, though it may persist closer to 2-3 full days in some cases.

After those initial brutal 1-2 days, symptoms generally start to slowly get better with less vomiting/diarrhea over the next 3-5 days. However, it often takes the full 7 days before appetite and energy levels feel 100% normal again.

Even after symptoms resolve though, viral shedding can persist in stool for up to 2 weeks. So proper hand hygiene remains important for reducing transmission during this time.

Stages Of Stomach Flu

Stages Of Stomach Flu

Stomach flu typically progresses through four stages:

1. Incubation Period: This is the period between when you are exposed to the virus and when you start experiencing symptoms. The incubation period for stomach flu is usually between 1-3 days.

2. Prodromal Stage: This stage is characterized by the onset of symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. You may also experience stomach cramps and a low-grade fever during this stage.

3. Vomiting and Diarrhea Stage: Also known as the Acute phase. This stage is characterized by more severe symptoms such as frequent vomiting and diarrhea. You may also experience dehydration during this stage.

4. Recovery and Remission Stage: This stage is characterized by the resolution of symptoms. You may still feel weak and tired during this stage, but your appetite should start to return.

What Kills Stomach Virus

Stomach Virus

The term “stomach virus” refers to viral gastroenteritis, caused by viruses like norovirus, rotavirus, or adenovirus. There is no specific medication that can directly kill these viruses.

However, managing symptoms and preventing the spread of the virus can be achieved through hydration, rest, isolation, disinfection, and avoiding certain foods. Hydration is crucial, especially during vomiting and diarrhea, and rest helps the body recover from the infection. Isolation is essential to prevent spreading the virus to others, and good hygiene practices, such as frequent handwashing, are essential.

Disinfection is crucial, especially in shared areas, and avoiding harsh foods can help alleviate symptoms. In severe cases or if symptoms persist, medical attention is recommended, with healthcare professionals providing supportive care like intravenous fluids. Antibiotics are not prescribed for viral gastroenteritis, and prevention through good hygiene practices, such as regular handwashing, is crucial.

Treatment For Stomach Flu

There is no specific treatment for stomach flu. The best course of action is to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids such as water, sports drinks, or clear broths. You should also get plenty of rest and avoid solid foods until your symptoms have resolved.

Prevention Of Stomach Flu

The best way to prevent stomach flu is to practice good hygiene. This includes washing your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after using the bathroom or changing diapers. You should also avoid sharing utensils or drinking glasses with others.

Long-Term Effects Of Stomach Flu

Long-Term Effects Of Stomach Flu

Stomach flu, or viral gastroenteritis, is often a brief and intense battle. You weather the symptoms, regain your health, and move forward. But there are instances when this unwelcome visitor leaves a lasting impact. Let’s delve into the factual long-term effects you need to be aware of.

While most cases of stomach flu are fleeting, it can sometimes sow the seeds for post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome (PI-IBS). This condition may persist after the flu has passed, resulting in discomfort such as cramps, diarrhea, and bloating.

In rarer cases, stomach flu can trigger post-infectious reactive arthritis, a more serious condition. It manifests as joint pain, swelling, and inflammation, often targeting the knees, ankles, or wrists.

It’s crucial to understand that not everyone experiences these long-term effects. The majority recover without complications. For those who do, treatments are available to manage symptoms.

Your health is a long-term commitment, and if stomach flu has left you with enduring effects, consulting a healthcare provider is a wise step. They can offer guidance on managing and treating these post-flu challenges. While stomach flu may be transient, your well-being is enduring.

Also Read:- Foods To Eat When You Have Stomach Flu


In conclusion, stomach flu is a common illness that can cause many unpleasant symptoms. By understanding the different stages of stomach flu and taking steps to prevent its spread, you can help protect yourself and others from this highly contagious virus.

If you are traveling to an area prevalent with stomach flu conditions take extra precautions by drinking bottled water, and boiled water and avoiding raw fruits and vegetables. Do you Know What Kills the Stomach Virus?

Killing off a stomach virus can be challenging since these viral gastroenteritis infections often have to simply run their course. However, there are a few things that may help shorten their duration or reduce the odds of spreading the infection to others.

Firstly, proper handwashing with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom can go a long way in containing stomach viruses. Alcohol-based sanitizers are also effective virus killers. Disinfecting surfaces with diluted bleach solutions may likewise inactivate stubborn stomach bugs like norovirus.

As for treating symptoms, staying hydrated with clear fluids, like water or electrolyte drinks, is crucial to counteract vomiting and diarrhea.

Over-the-counter anti-nausea medication can soothe severe nausea and vomiting as well during those brutal first few days. Getting plenty of rest allows your body to direct more energy towards fighting off the virus too.

While there’s no cure per se, supportive self-care measures like these can help reduce the severity and duration of stomach flu episodes. In more severe cases though, medications or intravenous fluids in the hospital may be necessary if dehydration becomes excessive.

So monitoring symptoms and staying in touch with your doctor is important, especially for high-risk patients. But in otherwise healthy individuals, attentive home treatment is often enough to guide most stomach bugs to eventual viral clearance within a week or so.

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Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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