Many people talk about the "stomach flu" when they're feeling sick to their stomachs. It isn't the same as influenza, or the flu. Stomach flu is an illness called gastroenteritis (say: gas-tro-en-tuh-rye-tus), which is usually caused by a virus.
Someone who gets gastroenteritis might have stomach cramps, nausea (say: naw-zee-uh), throwing up, and diarrhea (say: dye-uh-ree-uh). He or she will probably feel pretty sick for a day or 2 but will then get better.
There is no vaccine or cure for gastroenteritis. If you have it, you'll want to rest until you feel better. If you're throwing up, don't eat solid food. Instead, sip fluids, such as water, or chew on bits of ice. Your mom or dad also might give you an oral rehydration solution (say: or-ul ree-hye-dray-shun suh-loo-shun). That's a fancy name for those special fruit-flavored drinks and Popsicles that contain carbohydrates and electrolytes - stuff your body can get low on when you're dehydrated from diarrhea or throwing up.
Once you stop throwing up, drink more clear foods and drinks such as warm chicken broth, popsicles, and gelatin. When you start to feel better, try eating bland foods like toast, pretzels or crackers, bananas, and plain noodles. As your digestive system returns to normal, you can gradually go back to eating what you usually do.
Gastroenteritis is contagious (say: kun-tay-jus), which means that someone who has it can spread it to other people. That's why it's important to wash your hands, especially before you eat and after going pee or poop. If you don't wash up after using the bathroom, you might end up spending a lot more time in there - with a case of stomach flu! Gross!
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: March 2007