Grape Juice to Treat Stomach Flu? Not So Fast. - Promise
Grape Juice to Treat Stomach Flu? by Jordan Smallwood, MD. Promise: Powered by Nemours Children's Health System

Grape Juice to Treat Stomach Flu? Not So Fast.

For generations, parents and families have relied on home cures for everything from colds to tummy aches and sleepless nights. Chicken soup, popsicles and warm milk have proven themselves over decades of use, and now they have company — grape juice.

At least, that’s what the internet says.

In recent months, tales of grape juice curing stomach flu have cropped up on parenting blogs all over the web. Here’s the idea: If you find yourself (or one of your family members) exposed to the stomach flu, but haven’t experienced symptoms yet, downing three glasses of grape juice will ward off the illness. Multiple sites claim that the grape juice can change the pH in the stomach, making it uninhabitable to stomach viruses. They also claim that the skins of the grapes have anti-viral properties.

Is it true? Can grape juice really stop puke in its tracks? Is this the fix we’ve all been waiting for? Put simply, no.

First, it’s important to know what we’re talking about when we talk about “stomach flu.” What most people know as stomach flu is an infection of one of several viruses (usually norovirus or rotovirus). These viruses cause gastroenteritis, which affects the intestines and has symptoms like diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and fever. The infections are no fun to experience, and the viruses that cause them are notoriously hard to kill. Unfortunately, grape juice won’t do the trick.

So what about the antiviral properties of grapes? There’s some scientific evidence supporting that part of the grape juice theory, but it’s about 40 years old, and it’s never been tested (or proven) in humans. Snopes points to reviews of a 1970s study, and shows that science hasn’t progressed much in the realm of grapes as anti-viral agents in the years since.

So what should you do to ward off gastroenteritis and the viruses that cause it?

  • Wash your hands often, and make sure your kids are washing theirs, too. It’s especially important after using the bathroom.

  • If someone in your family or circle of friends does have symptoms of stomach flu, don’t share food, drinks, or utensils.

  • Make sure your child is vaccinated. A vaccine against stomach flu caused by the rotavirus is available for children under 1 year, and can help lessen the symptoms of an infection.

  • Disinfect as many hard surfaces as possible. A mixture of water and bleach is best.

  • Avoid raw, unwashed food, and undercooked food.

If you or a family member does get the dreaded stomach flu, there are steps you can take to make the symptoms less severe and keep dehydration at bay.

  • Be sensible about what you’re eating. Dairy, fatty foods, or greasy foods may all make symptoms worse, not better. A bland diet is recommended for the first few days, but don’t overdo it when you start putting back in the foods you love.
  • Give small amounts of fluid:
    • For babies: about 1 tablespoon of oral electrolyte solution every 15-20 minutes; shorter but more frequent breastfeeding
    • For kids: 1-2 tbsp. every 15 minutes of oral electrolyte solution, ice chips, flat ginger ale or lemon-lime soda, clear broth, ice pops, or diluted juice — even grape juice.
    • If your child vomits again, wait 20-30 minutes and start over.
  • Transition to mild, easy-to-digest food after about 8 hours without vomiting. Think rice, applesauce, and toast.

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Jordan Smallwood, MD

About Jordan Smallwood, MD

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Jordan Smallwood, MD specializes in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology. He cares for patients at Nemours Children's Hospital and Nemours Children's Specialty Care in Orlando.