Intestinal Flu: Symptoms, Treatment and Diet

Intestinal flu occurs due to infection by certain viruses. In addition to causing headaches, fever and tiredness, it causes vomiting, diarrhea and stomach discomfort. Find out how to treat it!
Intestinal Flu: Symptoms, Treatment and Diet
Elisa Martin Cano

Written and verified by the doctor Elisa Martin Cano.

Last update: 11 June, 2022

Intestinal flu, also called stomach flu, is a viral infection that can affect anyone. It causes stomach discomfort, usually accompanied by diarrhea and vomiting. In most cases it goes away on its own and only the symptoms it causes are treated.

However, there are certain people who are at greater risk, as well as situations in which it may become complicated and require medical surveillance. In this article, we’ll tell you what this infection consists of and how it’s treated.

What is intestinal flu?

Intestinal flu, also known as viral gastroenteritis, is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused by viruses. There are many types of viruses capable of causing this infection. Among the most important are, for example:

  • Rotavirus: this virus is the most frequent cause of intestinal flu in children.
  • Norovirus: causes most intestinal infections in adults.
  • Adenovirus: mainly causes intestinal flu in children under two years of age. This virus usually produces symptoms for a longer period of time than the previous ones.
A woman with a stomach ache
Several types of viruses can cause intestinal flu. It’s also a highly contagious infection.

Transmission is from person to person. The virus can be found in the stools and vomit of affected persons. If a person goes to the bathroom and some of the virus remains on their hands, it’s possible that they may infect another person close to them.

This is why, in order to prevent infection, the most important thing is proper hand hygiene. Specialists also suggest not sharing cutlery, towels and other personal items with people who are suffering from this type of infection.

You may be interested in:  5 Tips to Eliminate Intestinal Parasites

Symptoms of intestinal flu

As its name suggests, it’s an infection that produces symptoms similar to any flu. These are fever, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, and so on. In addition to these, there are others more specific to the digestive system such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Colicky pain

Dehydration is the most serious complication of this condition. It can occur if there’s vomiting and diarrhea without adequate water intake. Therefore, you should be alert to the appearance of certain symptoms that would indicate severe dehydration, for example:

  • Dizziness
  • Decrease in the frequency and amount of urination
  • Drowsiness
  • Feeling of thirst

The duration of symptoms varies depending on the type of virus and the person infected. In addition, symptoms are usually present for 3 to 7 days.

Who’s affected?

As we’ve already mentioned, intestinal flu can affect anyone. Although it’s true that, depending on the age group, one or another type of virus will be more frequent, not everyone has the same risk of complications.

The most vulnerable groups are children, the elderly and people with weak immune systems. In them, symptoms may be more severe and last longer compared to a previously healthy adult.

These patients need a closer control, some may even require hospitalization. In addition, the time of year also has an influence. In summer, with high temperatures, there’s a greater tendency to dehydration.

Treating intestinal flu

A woman drinking water
Part of the treatment of intestinal flu is to avoid dehydration. Therefore, doctors suggest intake of water and healthy beverages.

There’s no specific treatment for intestinal flu. As we already mentioned, the virus is eventually eliminated from the organism and the symptoms disappear spontaneously after a few days.

It’s possible to treat the general symptoms, such as fever or muscle aches, with common analgesics and antipyretics. However, the most important thing is to prevent the appearance of complications, especially dehydration. It’s vital to keep the patient well hydrated.

Diet during intestinal flu

  • Specialists suggest basing the diet on foods rich in water, such as creams, purees, broths, juices, etc.
  • If necessary, the patient should receive an extra supply of water and sugar with oral serum or sports drinks. Continuous intake of small sips is important, especially after each vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Avoid very fatty or sugary foods, as well as foods with high fiber content.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages.
  • As symptoms subside, all foods should be gradually reintroduced into the diet.


In conclusion, intestinal flu is usually a benign issue that usually goes away in a few days without any major consequences. However, it’s important to monitor the person’s general condition, and to be alert to any warning signs that may require a medical check-up.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Chow CM, Leung AK, Hon KL. Acute gastroenteritis: from guidelines to real life. Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2010;3:97–112. doi:10.2147/ceg.s6554
  • Gastroenteritis viral (gripe estomacal): MedlinePlus enciclopedia médica. (n.d.). Retrieved February 5, 2020, from
  • Gripe intestinal: síntomas, duración y dieta recomendada | VIU. (n.d.). Retrieved February 5, 2020, from
  • Stuempfig ND, Seroy J. Viral Gastroenteritis. [Updated 2019 Jun 17]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from:
  • Oude Munnink BB, van der Hoek L. Viruses Causing Gastroenteritis: The Known, The New and Those Beyond. Viruses. 2016;8(2):42. Published 2016 Feb 8. doi:10.3390/v8020042

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.