Welcome to Stop The Stomach Flu

Stomach Flu Facts:

  • Symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea. It is caused by viruses. (Norovirus, Sapovirus, and rotavirus are common culprits.) It is viral gastroenteritis and is not related to influenza (the real flu). "Stomach flu" is just a nickname. The flu shot does not protect against the stomach flu. Sometimes referred to as “stomach virus”, “norovirus”, “stomach bug”, “24 hour bug”, “stomach flu”, “intestinal virus”, and “winter vomiting disease”. It is NOT "the flu".

  • Millions of viruses are in poop, vomit, and possibly nasal secretions and saliva of a sick person.

  • Illness is spread when a few of these viruses get into someone else's mouth.

  • It usually takes 24-72 hours to get sick after you have swallowed the virus. Sometimes it takes a full week or even a little longer.

  • A person is contagious (still producing viruses) for at least 3 days AFTER symptoms have stopped.

  • Stay away from other people as much as possible while you are contagious and don’t prepare food for anyone else if possible.

  • If you or your child is sick with vomiting or diarrhea, do not prepare food or snacks for other people. (It is not a good time to bring a snack for the class or bake cookies for a sports team.) If you work in food service, DO NOT go to work.

  • Children should stay home from school or daycare for 48 hours after the last bout of vomiting. 48 hours is the minimum time it takes to make sure symptoms are over. (There can be a relapse of vomiting after 24 hours and the diarrhea sometimes doesn’t start for 24-48 hours after the vomiting). Ideally they should stay home until they have eaten normally for a full day. That often takes longer than 48 hours.

  • If you or your children have just recovered from a stomach bug, do not go to unnecessary public places (movies, pools, restaurants, indoor playgrounds) or play dates at someone else's house until they have been well for a full week.

  • The viruses can live for weeks on household surfaces. Clean with chlorine bleach (a 5%-10% solution of household bleach in water is good or Clorox clean-up with bleach), Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide Wipe or Clorox® Hydrogen Peroxide Spray (great for carpet). The Regular Clorox® wipes and Lysol® wipes from the grocery, including Lysol Power and Free Hydrogen Peroxide Wipes store DO NOT claim to kill these viruses.

  • Since the viruses live so long on household surfaces, don't have company to your house until all have been well for 2 weeks. If you do have company, give them a warning. Don't go to someone else's house who has been sick with a stomach bug for 2 weeks unless you have a few pounds that you'd like to lose.

  • School nurses should not send children who "don't feel good" back to class. Children with stomach bugs frequently don't have a fever and vomiting in the middle of class will put the other students at high risk.

  • Never visit someone at a nursing home or hospital until you have been well for 2 weeks after a stomach bug.

  • Wash your hands frequently. Teachers should insist that all children wash their hands before lunch and snack. Many elementary school teachers do not do this.

  • Only a few hand sanitizers have been tested and kill norovirus. Zylast antiseptic is the one that I use.

Welcome to "Stop the Stomach Flu" - by Dr. Annie

If you have stumbled upon my web site because you or a loved one is suffering from a stomach bug, you have my deepest sympathy. Yes, there are worse illnesses in the world. But stomach bugs are the worst kind that are definitely going to happen to all of us and happen so frequently. I personally know 3 families who have had stomach bugs 4 times during the past year! I have heard from a few families who got stomach bugs 5 times in 1 year. In my experience, it seems that most people have no idea how they got the stomach illness or how they could give it to someone else. I believe that if people were educated about the stomach flu, how it is spread, and how long they are contagious, we would not all have to get it so many times. And yes, I know that the stomach "flu" is a nickname and has no relation to influenza. There just isn't a good collective term for all of these gastrointestinal illnesses that I hate. If you would like to know more about me, please read my About the Scientist page.

--Annie Pryor, Ph.D.