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What is a Stomach Bug & How Long Does it Last?

What is Stomach Bug?

You must have heard people talking about stomach flu or the stomach bug? Do you know what exactly stomach bug is? Don’t worry, here’s the answer. Medically known as viral gastroenteritis, stomach bug is basically inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Stomach bug is a short-term illness that spreads easily. It is usually self-diagnosable and rarely requires any lab tests or imaging tests to get detected. The most common symptom of Stomach Bug is dehydration and one should seek medical help if this symptom arises. Stomach bug is generally self-treatable.

What is Stomach Bug?

What Causes the Stomach Bug?

Several kinds of viruses can cause stomach bug, but the ones that most frequently cause stomach bug are rotavirus, norovirus , astrovirus and adenovirus. The stomach bug is extremely infectious and widely occurs during the winter months. One can easily catch this virus by coming in contact with a sick person, contaminated water and food and infected vomit or stool.

What Are The Symptoms Of A Stomach Bug?

In most people, the symptoms of stomach bug appear within 24 to 48 hours of getting exposed to the virus. Some of the many symptoms that may show up in stomach bug or viral gastroenteritis patients are:

How Long Does Stomach Bug Last?

Generally, stomach bug resolves within a few days. However, in certain cases the sickness can get prolonged for up to 10 days. Patients should stay in constant touch with their doctor if their symptoms persist for long. This is essential for preventing the occurrence of any complications or other illnesses.

What Are The Possible Complications of Stomach Bug?

People who have been suffering from stomach bug for long can eventually develop dehydration. Blood pressure, dizziness, dryness of the throat and mouth, excessive thirst, dark urine and reduced urine output are all symptoms of dehydration. Patients of stomach bug must be watchful of these symptoms and seek treatment accordingly.
Babies suffering from stomach bug, on getting dehydrated, also show symptoms like dry diapers, no tears, fontanels and sunken eyes. When these symptoms appear, medical attention should be sought immediately.

How Can Stomach Bug Be Treated?

Antibiotics are not helpful in treating stomach bug, as this illness is caused by a virus and not bacteria. With a healthy diet and enough rest, this disease can be cured without any medical help. Ones infected with stomach bug, one must take the required precautions to prevent spreading this disease to others. These patients are most contagious when they are feeling the worst and a few days afterwards. The bug can stay in their stool for up to 2 weeks. These patients should wash their hands more often, keep away from work, school etc. and stay at home for at least 3 days after they start feeling better. It is essential for people who are around a stomach bug patient to wash their hands frequently and also get vaccinated for Rotavirus at the earliest. Babies should be vaccinated against the rotavirus when they are 2 months old in order to keep them safe from stomach bug.

Dehydration is a major cause of concern for individuals who have the stomach virus, a.k.a. Stomach Bug. So, people suffering from stomach bug must consume plenty of fluids every day. This can help to flush the toxins out of the body and also keep one optimally hydrated. Adults must drink fluids containing electrolytes, like Gatorade, and children must take fluid replacement solutions. These drinks together with water help to restore and balance the body’s fluid levels. For ideal results, one should drink around 2 to 4 ounces every half-hour to an hour. One should, however, avoid sodas and fruit juices since these liquids do not replace the lost electrolytes.

Once the patient feels like eating again, they should be given a bland, light and nutritious diet. Foods like banana, apple, vegetable, potato, bread, cereal, whole grain, plain yogurt, etc. must be included in the diet. Spicy foods, caffeine, dairy products and alcohol must be avoided as these can upset the individual’s stomach. This nutrient rich diet should be a good break for the stomach from the regular spicy, oily and junk food rich unhealthy diet.

How Can Stomach Bug Be Prevented?

Although, stomach bug is also called stomach influenza or stomach flu, it is caused by a different type of virus and hence is not preventable with the use of the common flu vaccination. Some of the preventive measures for stomach bug are:

  • Avoid contact with people infected with stomach flu and wash your hands frequently.
  • Avoid hand-washing dishes and use the dishwasher instead.
  • Avoid using hand sanitizer and use soap and water instead.
  • Use a disinfectant solution to clean countertops and kitchen surfaces.
  • Wipe the shopping cart handles before using them.

If a family member has been affected with stomach bug, then keep the sick member isolated and keep their stuff separate and restrict their use to one bathroom and the rest of the family members should use another bathroom.


  1. Mayo Clinic – Viral Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu): https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/viral-gastroenteritis/symptoms-causes/syc-20378847
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Prevent the Spread of Norovirus: https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/about/prevention.html
  3. Cleveland Clinic – Viral Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu): https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16946-viral-gastroenteritis-stomach-flu
  4. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) – Viral Gastroenteritis: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/viral-gastroenteritis

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 31, 2023

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