What Is Stomach Flu and How to Effectively Manage It

What Is Stomach Flu and How to Effectively Manage It

One of the worst things to ever experience is having a bad stomach day. There is nothing as bad bending over the toilet throwing up. Your stomach continually acting up is not a joke. What makes the experience even worse is not knowing what caused the problem in the first place.

Stomach flu is one of the infections that cause significant distress in your gastrointestinal tract. It can be a nightmare when your child has it. Many people tend to confuse the stomach flu for food poisoning. But the two are different.

Let’s decipher what stomach flu is and what it is not before we look at stomach flu treatment.

Stomach Flu vs. Food Poisoning

Most people think that stomach flu is a type of flu caused by the influenza virus, but it is not. Do not expect the annual flu shot to protect you or your child from the stomach flu.

The stomach flu is better known as viral gastroenteritis, which is an intestinal infection. The symptoms, which include diarrhea, can be very unpleasant, but most people recover after a few days.

Different viruses cause stomach flu, but the most common is rotavirus, norovirus, and adenovirus. The norovirus is responsible for infecting up to 20 million Americans each year. You have to come into contact with an infected person or take contaminated food to be infected.

On the other hand, food poisoning is caused by different organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and other parasites. Food poisoning is also known as foodborne illness.

Infectious organisms can contaminate the food at any point, even at home, if the food is not handled or cooked properly. The symptoms will typically show up a few hours after eating the contaminated food.

Causes of Stomach Flu

Several viruses cause stomach flu, but the viruses responsible for most of the cases are:

  • Norovirus

Norovirus affects both children and adults. It is the leading cause of stomach flu in the world. It can sweep through communities and can spread very fast when people live in confined spaces.

  • Rotavirus

Rotavirus is the leading cause of gastroenteritis in children who get infected by putting their hands in the mouth or putting other infected objects in their mouths. Infants and young children are the worst hit when infected with this virus.

When adults are infected with rotavirus, they are asymptomatic (not showing symptoms), but they can still spread the disease.

Symptoms

As you now know, the stomach flu isn’t the flu, and so it is your digestive tract that will be affected. Some of the stomach flu symptoms include:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Headache
  • Joint aches
  • Non-bloody diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle aches
  • Thirst
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness

The symptoms may appear anywhere between one and three days, depending on the cause. The symptoms may also oscillate between mild to severe and can last for two days or may persist for as long as ten days.

You can easily mistake the symptoms caused by bacteria such as E. coli or other parasites since the symptoms are similar.

Treatment

Most of the time, the approach used to treat the disease will depend on the organism causing the infection. Antibiotics are ineffective since it is a viral infection. The norovirus is not easy to get rid of, so there is no cure for it.

In certain countries, including the U.S, there is a rotavirus vaccine that seems to be effective in preventing the disease in children.

But, stomach flu treatment majorly comprises of self-care measures. If you have stomach flu, what to eat and what you do will go a long way to beating the infection. Here are some tips:

  • Do not eat solid foods for a couple of hours to allow your stomach time to settle.
  • Take small sips of water.
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Avoid eating certain foods like dairy products and coffee until you feel better.
  • Be careful with medications since certain medications can aggravate your condition.
  • Gradually begin to eat, starting with bland foods as you work your way to normal foods.

Prevention

You might be wondering if the stomach flu is contagious or not. Also, another critical question is to ask yourself is how to prevent stomach virus after exposure.

After you have been infected, you can be contagious as from two days to two weeks, depending on the organism that caused the stomach flu.

If you have norovirus, you will still be contagious for a few days after you recover. With rotavirus, your child will be contagious for two weeks after recovery.

You can take these precautions:

  • Vaccinate your child
  • Disinfect surfaces
  • Keep your distance from anyone who is infected.
  • If you are sick use separate utensils and do not share your food with others
  • Wash hands regularly and thoroughly.

If you have a high fever or vomiting blood or the symptoms, seem to persist rush immediately to our Altus Emergency Center in Lake Jackson to avoid further complications.

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