Woman holding stomach experiencing vomiting from stomach flu

Counting the days: how long does stomach flu last?

We've all experienced those unexpected bouts of stomach discomfort that can really throw us off track. Today, we're talking about a common virus that usually makes the rounds during this time of year: the stomach flu, also known as gastroenteritis.

You may be wondering: How long does stomach flu last? What are the first symptoms of gastroenteritis? Let’s find out.

The first signs of stomach flu

Picture this: you're going about your day when suddenly, your stomach starts sending signals that something isn't quite right.

Here’s how to spot the initial signs of the stomach flu.

  • Nausea and queasiness. The stomach flu often begins with a feeling of nausea.
  • Vomiting. Unfortunately, that queasiness may lead to vomiting which is your body's way of getting rid of whatever is irritating it.
  • Diarrhea. Alongside or sometimes, instead of vomiting, you may experience diarrhea.
  • Abdominal cramps. These abdominal cramps may vary in intensity but often indicate an underlying issue.
  • Low-grade fever. Your body's natural defense mechanism might kick in, leading to a slight increase in body temperature.
  • Fatigue. Are you feeling unusually tired or weak? The stomach flu can really zap your energy.
  • Loss of appetite. That food you were craving suddenly doesn't sound appealing at all. It is common not to feel hungry when you have the stomach flu.

These stomach flu symptoms are nonspecific and can have a few causes. If you suspect you have the stomach flu, consult a health care professional at your local CityMD urgent care for a proper diagnosis.

How long does stomach flu last?

Now that we've familiarized ourselves with the early symptoms of the stomach flu let's get to the heart of the matter: how long it lasts.

The duration of stomach flu can vary from person to person. On average, it typically lasts anywhere from 1 to 3 days. Here are a few things you should know that can help you manage during those first few days when you feel very sick.

  1. Acute phase. During the initial 24 to 72 hours, you'll likely experience the most intense symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. This is the acute phase of the illness.
  2. Gradual improvement. After this acute phase, you should notice a gradual improvement in your condition. Your symptoms may become less severe, and your energy levels may begin to return.
  3. Hydration matters. Staying hydrated is important during the first few days. Frequent episodes of vomiting and diarrhea can lead to fluid loss, so drink clear fluids like water, electrolyte solutions, and clear broths to prevent dehydration.
  4. When to seek medical attention. While most cases of stomach flu resolve on their own, there are cases where you may need medical attention. If your symptoms are severe, persist beyond a week, or if you notice blood in your vomit or stool, consult a health care professional or visit CityMD urgent care. You can also take advantage of CityMD virtual care and speak with a physician from the comfort of your own home.
  5. Contagious period. You can still be contagious for a few days after your symptoms subside. Practice good hand hygiene and take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus to others.

Understanding how long the stomach flu can last will help you navigate this temporary setback. Rest, hydration, and seeking medical guidance when necessary are keys to a swift and safe recovery.

How long is stomach flu contagious?

You may be wondering how long you will be contagious and what precautions you will need to take. Use these tips to help avoid spreading the stomach flu to people around you.

  • Contagious period. The stomach flu is contagious before symptoms start and throughout the course of your illness.
  • Peak contagiousness. You're most contagious during the first 24 to 48 hours when symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea are severe.
  • Post-recovery contagion. You can continue to be contagious for up to two weeks after symptoms subside.
  • Preventing transmission. Practice thorough handwashing, isolate yourself throughout the illness, and avoid close contact, especially with vulnerable individuals.
  • Household precautions. Ensure separate bathroom facilities if possible and disinfect contaminated surfaces.
  • Returning to normal activities. Wait until you've been symptom-free for at least 48 hours before returning to work, school, or public places.

Being aware of the contagious period and taking appropriate precautions can help prevent the spread of stomach flu effectively.

Treating stomach flu at CityMD

While most cases typically last 1 to 3 days, the length of the stomach flu will vary from person to person. You can remain contagious for a few weeks, so taking precautions and practicing good hygiene is essential.

If you or someone you know is experiencing severe illness or needs medical advice, don't hesitate to reach out to CityMD urgent care. Our professional team is ready to provide guidance and care to help you get back on your feet.

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