Strategies to minimize harm and maximize self-care.
Upset stomach or abdominal pain can be caused by many different things, but it is most often due to inflammation of the stomach lining and intestines caused by viruses. Typically, an upset stomach can be treated at home. If symptoms are extreme or prolonged, medical care is needed.
- Cramping abdominal pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Diarrhea, loose or liquid stools, increased number of stools
- Headache or body aches
- Chills, with or without fevers
Most people can successfully treat their symptoms at home. During the first 24 to 36 hours, the best treatment is a diet of clear liquids only. Frequent, small amounts of fluids are tolerated best. A good goal is to drink enough fluids to keep your urine a pale yellow or clear color. If vomiting occurs, wait up to two hours before trying to drink again, and start with sips of water or sucking on ice chips. If these are well tolerated, it is ok to try other fluids, such as:
- Sports drinks
- Clear, non-caffeinated sodas such as 7-Up, Sprite or ginger ale
- Diluted juices such as apple, grape, cherry or cranberry (avoid citrus juices)
- Clear soup broth or bullion
- Decaffeinated tea
If fluids are well tolerated, it is ok to slowly add bland solid foods, but it is important to continue to focus on fluid intake at the same time. Good foods to try are:
- White toast with only honey or jelly
- Soda crackers
- Plain white rice
FOODS TO AVOID: non-cultured dairy products (milk, cheese, ice cream,) spicy, greasy or fatty foods, whole grains, raw vegetables, alcohol, caffeine.
Continue to progress with eating, as tolerated. It may take several days to a week for a person’s appetite, energy level, and bowels to be normal again.
- Wash hands well with soap and water after using the bathroom and before and after eating or
- Do not share eating or drinking utensils with others.
- Avoid milk, cheese or egg-based foods that have not been refrigerated.
- Handle uncooked meat or poultry carefully — wash hands, utensils and work surfaces well after preparing, especially before handling other foods
- When travelling in foreign countries, drink only bottled beverages and only eat fruits and vegetables that can be peeled or thoroughly cooked. Avoid sidewalk food stands.
When to contact a clinician
- Persistent or severe abdominal pain, especially if unrelieved by vomiting or passing a bowel
- Fever greater than 101 degrees F, not relieved by acetaminophen, or any fever that lasts more than three days
- Vomiting or diarrhea without any improvement for more 24 hours
- Blood in vomit or stools
- No urination for more than 8 hours, or painful urination