When people say they have the 24 hour flu they typically mean a stomach virus that leads to diarrhea and vomiting. However, these symptoms can be caused by a variety of viruses which can create symptoms that last for a few hours or continue to plague you for over a week. Gastroenteritis or the stomach flu typically lasts between 24 hours and 10 days, which is a common benchmark for the 24 hour flu. The reaction you have and what symptoms you have will largely depend on what type of virus you have contracted.
Symptoms of 24 Hour Flu
Chills are one of the first symptoms of the 24 hour flu. This can cause your teeth to chatter, shaking and make it difficult for you to stand. Sip warm liquids like broth or tea and bundle up to help minimize these symptoms.
Headaches can appear as flu symptoms begin to take hold. Taking a nap or taking over the counter pain medication like acetaminophen or aspirin can help you treat this.
Vomiting and loss of appetite are a very common sign of the 24 hour flu. You should not try to consume solid foods while you are experiencing heavy vomiting. Instead, stick to clear liquids like water, ginger tea, flat ginger ale or tea with honey and lemon. If you can, suck on chipped ice to minimize your thirst and nausea.
Diarrhea is a concern when you have the flu because it can make it easier for you to become dehydrated, which puts elderly patients and children at a high risk for other symptoms. Consuming beverages with electrolytes can help you rehydrate your system. If you become very dehydrated you will need to have intravenous fluids provided.
Because your system is working too hard to fight off this infection you will likely begin to feel fatigued.
Causes of 24 Hour Flu
- Contaminated Foods. People typically contract the 24 hour flu because they consume food or water that contains the virus or come into contact with belongings that have been contaminated with another carrier.
- Noroviruses. A number of noroviruses that are foodborne can cause people to develop the flu. These viruses are very easy to spread throughout families and communities, particularly when people are living in confined spaces.
- Rotaviruses. Rotaviruses also increase your risk of developing the flu. This is commonly spread by children picking up the virus and then putting objects or their fingers in their mouth. Many adults that develop a rotavirus infection do not show any symptoms but can still pass the flu onto others.
There is a vaccine for these viruses available in many countries that can help minimize the risk of more severe symptoms.
Treatments for 24 Hour Flu
Your body will be weak after battling the virus and dehydration, so you should rest to help build up your strength.
You will need to begin working to keep yourself rehydrated as soon as you notice flu symptoms as vomiting and diarrhea are known for increasing this risk. Consume plenty of water and electrolyte beverages, but sip these slowly to minimize your risk of becoming nauseous and vomiting again.
Give children an oral rehydration solution from your pharmacy and talk to your doctor to make sure you know how to use these. You should avoid giving water to children with gastroenteritis because it will not be absorbed well and will not help your child get the electrolytes they are missing. Also avoid apple juice as this can increase diarrhea symptoms.
In some cases antibiotics like fluoroquinolone are effective in treating 24 hour flu. These can increase your risk of vomiting, so you should only take these if your doctor directs you to do so.
4. OTC Medications
Look for over the counter medications that contain bismuth subsalicylate such as Pepto Bismol which can help you treat a mild case of the 24 hour flu.
5. Antidiarrheal Agents
Antidiarrheal medication like loperamide can help you prevent losing a great deal of fluid during diarrhea and vomiting. These should be taken in small doses as directed by your physician to prevent constipation.
You should not give your child antidiarrheal medications unless your doctor advises you to do so because these can make it difficult for your child’s body to rid itself of the virus.
6. Getting Rid of Certain Foods
You should not consume substances like alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and foods that are highly seasoned or high in fat until your symptoms have passed. Children should not consume foods that are very sugary like soda, ice cream or candy because this can increase diarrhea.
7. Back to Eating Slowly
Ease your way back into eating full-sized meals. Start off your eating with foods that are easy on your body like gelatin, soda crackers, rice, bananas and chicken and stop consuming these foods if your nausea returns.
When to See a Doctor
You should talk to your doctor
- If you have been vomiting for over two days and you have not been able to keep liquids down for 24 hours.
- If you are dehydrated; signs include mouth, excessive thirst, little or no urine, urine that is a very deep yellow, dizziness, severe weakness or lightheadedness.
- If you have blood in the bowel movements or you are vomiting up blood,
- If you have a fever that is above 104 degrees F.
You should see medical assistance for children
- If they have bloody diarrhea, have a fever over 102 degrees F.
- If they are very irritable or lethargic or are showing signs of dehydration.
You should monitor their urine output to help check for these signs.
You should take your babies to the doctor right away
- If they have not had a wet diaper for 6 hours.
- If have vomited for several hours or have severe diarrhea or bloody stools.
- If they have dry mouth or are not producing tears when they cry.
- If they appear unresponsive or excessively drowsy or sleep.
- If they have a sunken soft spot or fontanel.