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Stomach flu is often called "intestinal flu." It's an illness caused by a virus, and it can produce different symptoms in different people. Some people develop a sore throat, cough, and nasal congestion similar to a common cold. This may be what's called "upper respiratory flu."

What people call stomach flu is usually marked by nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and a general sick feeling.

Here's how to treat stomach flu. First, you need to understand that antibiotics such as penicillin don't work on flu because they kill only bacteria. The flu is caused by a virus. Your body's defenses do the best job in fighting the illness themselves.

You can help your body fight flu by getting as much rest as possible. Do light activities if you have to, but rest as soon as you get tired. Stay home from work, unless your symptoms are mild. You'll recover faster that way, and you won't risk infecting others at work.

You should also drink adequate fluids to avoid dehydration -- but that will take some care when your symptoms are nausea and diarrhea. So let's cover what you can do to relieve these symptoms.

When your stomach is upset, the last thing it needs is food. If you feel nauseated, give your stomach a rest. Don't eat or drink anything for about two hours. If you are vomiting, don't eat or drink anything for four hours. Then begin taking small sips of water and gradually work up to small amounts -- half a cup or less -- of Seven-Up, ginger ale, or Jell-O. Do this for four to eight hours. If you feel like it, try eating saltine crackers or dry toast. Don't start to eat other solid foods for at least 24 hours. Doing this could make you nauseated again.

You can also try taking the anti-nausea drug called Dramamine if you are sure that you are not pregnant. Dramamine is not safe to take during pregnancy. This non-prescription medication is available at drug stores, and can be used as directed. If these measures don't control your nausea, you should contact your health care provider. You should also call if you are taking daily medication for any chronic medical condition and nausea prevents you from doing this.

Another common symptom of stomach flu is diarrhea. If you develop diarrhea, don't eat or drink anything for four hours. Then start with sips of water and work up gradually, over several hours, to small amounts of Seven-Up, ginger ale, Jell-O, or bouillon. Again, you can also try saltines or dry toast. But don't eat other solid foods for 24 to 48 hours. These foods will just stimulate the diarrhea. Sometimes dairy products may also stimulate diarrhea after the initial flu, and therefore, it may be wise to stay away from dairy products for a few weeks.

After the first 24 to 48 hours, gradually resume eating solid foods. Meanwhile, you can use the non-prescription medication Donagel or Kaopectate, as directed on the label, to help control diarrhea.

With diarrhea, you should call if you don't improve after three days -- or if the diarrhea gets worse. Also call if your diarrhea is bloody, if you have severe abdominal cramps associated with nausea, vomiting and fever, or if you are ill after having recently returned from a trip to another country.

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