How to Prevent Stomach Flu

stomach flu, also known as Norovirus Infection, a contagious disease that affects people regardless of age. The infectious disease usually spreads in areas where people have been in close contact for long periods of time, such as cruise ships or prisons.

Because there are many different types of norovirus, it is possible to contract the virus multiple times in a lifetime. Preventing this very spreadable disease can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to try and prevent it.

This article will explain how stomach flu spreads, different prevention strategies, how to treat it at home, and when to see a doctor.

What is it?

Norovirus or stomach flu is an infectious disease. Although it’s commonly called the stomach flu, it’s not related to the seasonal flu virus. Its symptoms are primarily gastrointestinal (related to the digestive system) and include:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • stomach pain or cramping
  • fever
  • body pain
  • headache

These symptoms occur because the virus causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. In some people, severe diarrhea and vomiting can lead to dehydration (loss of body fluids).

Symptoms appear soon after exposure, usually within 12 to 48 hours. It can affect anyone, but people who work with children or have close contact with other infected people are more likely to contract the virus.

Older adults and people with underlying medical conditions or weakened immune systems may experience more severe symptoms than others.

Is it contagious?

Norovirus is highly contagious. You get stomach flu by ingesting infected feces or vomit particles. Even tiny infected substances can spread disease. Often, people come into contact with infected particles through contaminated food or water. This is called the fecal-oral route of transmission.

This could be caused by:

  • People preparing or cooking food are not washing their hands properly before doing so.
  • Food preparation areas are contaminated with infectious particles.
  • Food is grown or washed with contaminated water.

Being in close contact with an infected person and sharing cups, utensils or food with them can also cause you to get stomach flu.

How to Prevent Stomach Flu

Because stomach flu is contagious, preventing it can be challenging. But some strategies can help you avoid infection.

wash your hands thoroughly

Whether you’re preparing or eating food, it’s important to wash your hands thoroughly before doing so, especially if you’ve just used the toilet.

How to wash your hands: CDC guidelines

avoid contact with sick people

Beware of sharing food and utensils with people with norovirus. If you have stomach flu, you should avoid preparing food for others until you are no longer contagious.

If someone soils clothes or sheets with feces or vomit, be sure to put the soiled sheets in the laundry room. Wear gloves before handling items and use the hottest water setting for maximum virus killing.

Practice Food Safety

Preparing food safely can help prevent stomach flu. That means washing your hands before cooking and preparing food, and be sure to wash your hands before eating fresh produce.

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If you think food in your refrigerator is contaminated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends throwing it out. And always clean and sanitize food preparation surfaces.

Caring for someone with stomach flu

If you or someone you know has stomach flu, it’s important to keep your distance. Frequent hand washing and food safety to avoid spreading disease if infected.

How long does a stomach flu last?

Depending on your norovirus infection, your symptoms may last from 1 to 10 days. The CDC states that most people will feel better within one to three days.

You are most contagious when you have symptoms. So when you are actively vomiting and having diarrhea, you should pay attention to personal hygiene.

You can still be contagious – for up to two weeks after your symptoms start to subside. But contagiousness can vary depending on the type of norovirus you have.

How to Treat Stomach Flu

There is no medicine that can quickly cure a stomach flu. Usually, treatment includes rest and making sure to replace lost fluids. Avoid caffeinated beverages. Sports drinks are available, but you may need an over-the-counter rehydration solution (such as Pedialyte) to provide the full balance of minerals and nutrients lost through diarrhea and vomiting.

Antibiotics do not work against norovirus.

when to see a doctor

If your symptoms worsen or don’t go away, it may be time to see your doctor. You should also see your doctor if you are dehydrated and unable to keep fluids.

Dehydration is especially important for older adults, people with weakened immune systems, and young children. Signs of dehydration in babies and young children include crying without tears, wet diapers, and listlessness.

Managing vomiting and diarrhea in children


Norovirus or stomach flu is an infectious disease that is contracted by ingesting contaminated food or water. You can also get it through close contact with a sick person. Treatment for stomach flu includes rest and hydration.

To prevent infection, you should practice good hygiene, food safety, and be careful when caring for someone with stomach flu.

VigorTip words

To prevent getting or spreading stomach flu, be sure to wash your hands frequently. It is important to wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, before and after meals, and after changing diapers.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What can kill a stomach virus?

    A 5% to 8% bleach solution will kill any virus particles left on the surface.

  • How to prevent vomiting during stomach flu?

    Vomiting can be harmful to the body. If your vomiting is severe and causes severe dehydration, your doctor may prescribe an antiemetic to prevent you from vomiting.

  • Can you catch stomach flu from the air?

    Yes. When a person vomits, you can breathe in airborne infectious particles.