When you are feeling lousy from the flu, you might take comfort in knowing that it will probably pass within a few days. But in the meantime, you need to take care of yourself. And one critical area to pay attention to is whether you are getting enough fluids.
Dehydration, when it’s in association with the stomach flu -- more properly known as viral gastroenteritis -- can worsen the symptoms and prolong your recovery time. In fact, some say dehydration is the main complication of stomach flu because you not only lose water, you are losing essential salts and minerals.
Amid the vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, headaches and other assorted nuisances, medical experts say that signs of dehydration include excessive thirst, dry mouth and deep yellow urine or a tiny amount of urine, along with severe weakness, dizziness or lightheadedness. In some cases, cracked and parched lips, wrinkly skin and the appearance of sunken eyes can be clues to dehydration.
Even though you might not have the energy to lift a piece of dry toast or a glass of tepid water, it’s essential to do so. Little bites and small sips are better than nothing.
Water, clear soda and simple broth are good go-to liquids and should be supplemented by the bland foods you can keep down. It might not hurt to stock your cupboard with Gatorade or another sports drink with electrolytes to keep on hand for the times when the flu is drying you out.
One rule of thumb is to drink a small amount of clear liquid every 15 to 30 minutes, and if you can, keep it down. Then slowly increase the amount and frequency. If home care isn’t working, then it’s not out of the question for a doctor to order hospitalization and intravenous fluids.
The symptoms accompanying viral gastroenteritis can be quite worrisome if you have infants and young children. Regarding possible dehydration, one piece of medical advice is to compare how much the child is drinking with how much he or she is urinating. Then determine whether that amount is normal. Seek a healthcare practitioner’s advice on liquids for babies, such as Pedialyte, that help restore fluids.
Also, dehydration related to stomach flu is a big concern for those with compromised immune systems, such as the elderly, those undergoing chemotherapy and those with HIV/AIDS. Again, a healthcare worker can suggest liquids for these patients and thus, speed their recovery.
Reviewed July 26, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.