Did you know that if you have diarrhea and vomiting for several days, chances are you have the stomach flu? This is a viral infection that leads to irritation and inflammation in the small intestine. This condition is called Gastroenteritis.
While it is not harmful, in some cases, it can be severe if you do not notice its symptoms and get treatment. So, learn about those symptoms and prevention in the article on stomach flu.
Stomach flu or Gastroenteritis is a viral infection that affects your intestines and causes irritation or inflammation of your gut. You can notice symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, or fever. This happens when you come in contact with the infected person or eat contaminated food.
Although, it will heal on its own (in several days or quicker) if you’re healthy. But in some cases, if you develop symptoms of dehydration, you need emergency medical care or need to be admitted to the hospital.
Stomach flu is caused by a viral infection when you come in contact with an infected person or contaminated food or water. There are 2 types of viral infections that can cause stomach flu:
- Rotavirus: This is the most common viral infection that affects children and causes viral gastroenteritis. This infection spreads when kids touch the same objects or toys that are used by infected kids and then put their fingers or hands in their mouth or eat contaminated food. This infection is severe for young kids or infants and although it also affects adults, they may not show symptoms, but still can transfer the infection to other people. This is mostly possible in confined places or places where infected people can easily be found (such as hospitals or nursing homes). You can get a prophylactic dose of its vaccine to prevent the spread of the infection.
- Norovirus: This is the viral gastroenteritis that affects both adults and children. This is the most common viral infection worldwide that causes stomach flu and spreads by contaminated food. It can easily transmit if you’re living in confined places. Most of the time, people get infected by eating contaminated food or water or by coming in contact with an infected person (by sharing utensils, food, clothes, or other objects or things). You can easily get infected with this virus if you touch the infected object and then touch your mouth.
Stomach flu symptoms start to show up after some time when you got the infection, and may present as:
- Watery diarrhea
- Stomach cramps
If symptoms of dehydration show up such as dry mouth, dry skin, feeling lightheaded, sunken muscles, or extremely thirsty, visit your doctor.
Call us on 718-DORAL-55 to talk to a doctor of infectious diseases.
To diagnose viral gastroenteritis, your doctor asks for the symptoms you are experiencing. Your doctor also does a quick stool test or a physical exam to detect the virus. But it only works with rotavirus or norovirus, not with other viral infections.
In some cases, doctors might also ask you to submit a stool test sample to check for the possibility of bacterial or parasitic infection. A sigmoidoscopy test may be done to look for the signs of inflammatory bowel disease (in the large intestine).
Treatment involves hygiene practices and self-care measures, such as:
- Try to keep yourself hydrated. Keep drinking water to avoid dehydration. In the case of children, give them an ORS (oral rehydration solution). Talk to your doctor to know the right ORS dose for kids and infants.
- Remember that you should drink water slowly in small sips to avoid nausea or vomiting. You can also drink electrolyte liquids to keep yourself hydrated.
- Try to avoid solid food for a few hours and eat only when you feel hungry.
- Avoid certain types of foods until you get better (such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and fatty and seasonal foods).
- Take plenty of rest.
- Some types of medications such as loperamide, Pepto-Bismol, and others are effective in some cases to manage the symptoms. But if you have bloody diarrhea or fever, avoid these medications, it makes things worse. Instead visit your doctor.
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To prevent this disease from infecting you or people around you, follow these steps:
- Wash your hands regularly: You should wash your hands regularly with water and soap before and after eating, coming home from outside, when meeting lots of people, after going to public places, etc. Teach your kids how to wash their hands properly.
- Clean the area of the sick people: If someone is sick (around you), clean those areas used by them. Meet them with masks on and clean your hands afterwards.
- Eat healthy food: You should prefer eating homemade food, which is properly washed and cooked. Occasionally eat outside food from good and clean places, restaurants, or hotels. When you make any type of meat, be sure you wash and cook it properly.
- Avoid raw, unwashed, or undercooked food.
- When traveling, drink water only from a well-sealed bottle.
- Avoid ice cubes because they can be made of contaminated water.
- Avoid raw dairy products and fruits because they contain germs, consume them only when they are pasteurized.
- Avoid sharing personal items: Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, toothbrushes, eating utensils, drinking glasses, or other sharable items.
- In some countries, vaccination shots can be given to kids and infants to prevent the stomach flu. Make sure you get them all for your kids.
Stomach flu is a viral infection that can be prevented if you take the necessary precautions. And if it happens, it can be cured if you take care of yourself properly. But if you notice symptoms of dehydration, seek medical help immediately.
Want to know what rules to follow to prevent stomach infections?
Call us on 718-DORAL-55 to get free consultation from the Specialist for infectious diseases to know what viral gastroenteritis is.