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First Aid: Upset stomach(Gastroenteritis)

Gastroenteritis(Upset stomach) is also known as ‘stomach flu.’ It is common where access to clean drinking water and freshly cooked food is limited. During monsoons, many gastroenteritis cases are reported. To prevent stomach infections, avoid eating outside food and have fresh, homemade food during such times.

Viruses spread the stomach flu in children, especially the rotavirus. Fortunately, there are now vaccines for the prevention of infection in children. Besides, the elderly are also susceptible to gastroenteritis. The affected person suffers from a few days to a fortnight when infected. Usually, stomach flu resolves within a few days as the body fights the infection.

Causes for gastroenteritis (upset stomach)

  • It spreads through viruses such as rotavirus, which affects infants and children, and norovirus, which affects adults. The virus spreads between closely living persons by touching the infected surfaces or eating food cooked by patients. Viral diarrhea lasts for two to three days.
  • Water or food consumed that has been contaminated with
    1. Bacteria (e-Coli, salmonella, and campylobacter). Eating unclean, raw, stale foods, as bacteria can breed in them. Also, consuming undercooked poultry, eggs, etc., can cause gastroenteritis. Bacterial diarrhea lasts for three to seven days.
    2. Parasites (giardia and cryptosporidium) contaminate swimming pools and drinking water.
    3. Protozoal diarrhea lasts for weeks to months. (approx.)
  • Side effects from the consumed medications (antibiotics, laxatives, and chemotherapy drugs)
  • Unwashed hands after using the toilet or changing diapers
  • Contact with a person infected with gastroenteritis
  • Water containing a lot of heavy metals can sometimes cause stomach flu
  • Too much consumption of acidic (like tomatoes) and other citrus fruits can cause inflammation in the stomach and intestines.
  • Certain seafood contain toxins that can trigger gastroenteritis
  • Drinking unpasteurized milk
  • Drugs abuse
  • Improper diet or consuming meals irregularly
  • A person having high stress levels may have inflammation in the stomach

Stomach Flu Symptoms

  • The affected person may have bouts of vomiting and nausea
  • The person may suffer from diarrhea
  • There will be abdominal cramps
  • At times, there is a fever with chills
  • The person complains of fatigue

The person will suffer from inflammation in the stomach and intestines, and the symptoms can last from a day to a week. The affected person can consume sports drinks or any other over-the-counter rehydration solutions for hydration.

Ensure that you consume more fluid and consume bland food that your stomach can tolerate. Avoid sugary and fat-rich foods, as they worsen the condition.

First aid

  • Take care to see that you are hydrated at all times. Sip the liquids rather than gulp them down. This way, the fluid levels won’t go down so quickly, and the body will be able to stabilize gradually. Let the diet be of liquids till the stomach settles down.
  • Your urine must be light in color and clear. It shouldn’t turn dark in color, which indicates that your water intake is less. And urinate at regular intervals. If not, you will be dehydrated and will feel.
    1. Dizzy
    2. May faint
    3. Have Headaches
  • Don’t eat heavy meals when experiencing symptoms of gastroenteritis, as the body won’t be able to take it, and you will end up throwing up or visiting the toilet. Ensure that you eat light meals that are easily digestible in small amounts. It’s better to stop eating if you have nausea.
  • Get enough rest, as the constant loss of fluids from the body makes you weak and tired.

When to go to the doctor?

  • The vomiting doesn’t stop even after a couple of days
  • Diarrhea for several days on end, or the color of the stools has changed to bloody
  • The body temperatures are high all the time
  • The person feels dizzy and has fainting spells
  • There is a state of confusion or lack of alertness
  • Have extreme abdominal pain
  • There is trouble breathing/ rapid breathing
  • You aren’t urinating, or very little urine is passed
  • You feel very thirsty, and your mouth feels dry
  • Due to dehydration, the eyes are without tears and get sunken in
  • Increased heartbeat
  • blurred or double vision
  • Trouble in swallowing
  • There is muscle weakness
  • If you have pre-existing conditions, such as
    1. diabetes,
    2. kidney ailments,
    3. heart diseases,
    4. liver issues,
    5. Epilepsy
    6. Inflammatory bowel disease
  • You are pregnant


Gastroenteritis(Upset stomach) can be cured by itself if you hydrate yourself well and take ample rest. If it is a bacterial or parasitic infection, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics to help cure stomach flu.

  1. The Mayo clinic


  1. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

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