Boo Hoo, Stomach Flu!

stomach flu

Have you ever had a bug that hit you so hard you could not go to school or work? You took some medicine for fever to keep your soaring temperature down but your stomach! Oh your poor, poor stomach… What is this you are experiencing? Is it a cold? Is it diarrhea? Nope! What you have just might be a case of Stomach Flu, also known as Viral Gastroenteritis. It is fairly common illness and in some cases, a patient may have had it without even realizing it. What are the signs to look out for? What is the treatment? Here is the 411 on the Stomach Flu.

Overview

The Stomach Flu, also known as Viral gastroenteritis and gastric flu, is an illness that affect the stomach and intestinal area. Despite being called the stomach flu, it is not like the Influenza virus. During this illness, your stomach and your intestines swell up due to the virus.

What causes a stomach flu?

The stomach flu can be caused by a number of viruses. Some of the most common ones are Rotavirus, Norovirus and Sapovirus. It can also be caused by different bacteria such as salmonella, campylobacter aeromonas, and shigella.  Another possible cause are parasites like cryptosporidium and giardia.

Transmission is fast and easy as one can be infected by simply eating food that is not properly cooked or food that has been contaminated by the virus. This illness can also be passed on by using utensils and dishes with the virus. It can also be passed on from person to person.

Risk factors

The stomach flu can happen to anyone anywhere in the world, regardless of age, race, or background.

Some people, however, may be more at risk than others. These are:

  • Young children. Children in pre-school or grade school are at high risk because their immune systems have not yet developed enough to resist the bacteria and viruses that they are constantly exposed to in school.
  • Older adults. Just like young children, senior citizens have a higher risk because their immune systems are much weaker than they used to be.
  • Schoolchildren, churchgoers, dorm residents. Viruses and bacteria are easily passed around when people are in close proximity with each other. This makes people who stay in frequent contact with each other or even live close to each other susceptible to the stomach flu.
  • Those with weakened immune systems. Weakened immune systems are less resistant to infections, so those with HIV/AIDS, undergoing chemotherapy, or have autoimmune diseases are at risk.

Stomach flu symptoms

The signs and symptoms can differ a little from person to person, all depending with what virus has infected you.  But in general, these are the symptoms you will see in a person who has been infected by the Stomach Flu.

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach
  • Stomach and Intestinal Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Muscular Pain
  • Fever
  • Appetite Loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Clammy Skin

 

stomach pain

 

Stomach flu treatment

The best way to treat the Stomach Flu is by hydrating. Drinking water is not enough as this does not replace the salt and minerals you lose during this period of illness. Drink electrolyte or oral rehydration solutions to replace them. Do not worry as they are completely safe for babies to drink. Do not drink any milk or acidic drinks such as orange juice as these can make the pain worse.

Due to the stomach pain, the patient may not want to eat food and may stick to a liquid diet but once they can eat, do not give them hard food such as red meat. Go for a soft, bland diet like, for example, bananas, yogurt and rice. Then you can start on lean meat and soft, cooked veggies. Do not give them oily, fatty or spicy foods as doing so may lead to complications.

If the patient is complaining of a stomach ache, you can give them an ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help with the pain. Do not give any other medicine as these may cause further problems.

Stomach flu complications

While the stomach flu is a fairly common ailment and treatment can easily be done at home, there is one main complication that you can experience if you’re not careful – dehydration. Dehydration happens when you lose a lot of water as well as essential salts and minerals in your body. When you have the stomach flu, you lose a lot of water. This can be from vomiting, diarrhea, sweating due to the fever, lack of appetite, or a combination of the mentioned factors. If you remember to drink enough to replace the lost fluids, then dehydration shouldn’t be a problem.

Infants, older adults, and those with a weakened immune system may become severely dehydrated when they lose more fluids than they are able to drink. Hospitalization may be needed so that the lost liquids can be replaced via an IV or dextrose. In some extreme cases, dehydration can be fatal.

When replenishing lost liquids, refrain from drinking sports drinks as these are loaded with sugar. Instead, opt for oral rehydration solutions which you can purchase over the counter from any pharmacy. These are made with electrolytes and minerals which your body needs. Simply mix it with water and take as often as needed.

When to see a doctor

For adults, call your doctor if:

  • You are not able to keep liquids down for 24 hours
  • You have been vomiting for more than two days
  • You are vomiting blood
  • You are dehydrated — signs of dehydration include excessive thirst, dry mouth, deep yellow urine or little or no urine, and severe weakness, dizziness, or light-headedness
  • You notice blood in your bowel movements
  • You have a fever above 40 C

For infants and children

See a doctor right away if your child:

  • Has a fever of 38.9 C or higher
  • Seems lethargic or very irritable
  • Is in a lot of discomfort or pain
  • Has bloody diarrhea
  • Seems dehydrated — watch for signs of dehydration in sick infants and children by comparing how much they drink and urinate with how much is normal for them

While spitting up is normal for babies, there is a big difference between spitting up milk and vomiting. Vomiting may be a sign your baby needs medical assistance right away.

Call your baby’s doctor right away if your baby:

  • Has vomiting that lasts more than several hours
  • Hasn’t had a wet diaper in six hours
  • Has bloody stools or severe diarrhea
  • Has a sunken soft spot (fontanel) on the top of his or her head
  • Has a dry mouth or cries without tears
  • Is unusually sleepy, drowsy or unresponsive

Preventing a stomach flu

You can prevent the spread of stomach flu by practicing good hygiene. Do not eat undercooked food and wash your greens thoroughly. When traveling, only drink water from a trusted source such as a bottled, sealed water bottle. Although there is no definite vaccine for stomach flu, you can take a vaccine for rotavirus, one of the most common causes of this illness.

When going out, be careful of what you are eating. If you suspect the dish is undercooked, send it back to the kitchen. Carry around hand sanitizer and do not forget to drink medicine once you feel ill.