What is Stomach Flu?
Stomach flu also referred to as gastroenteritis is a general term for various inflammatory issues in the GI (gastrointestinal) tract. It is not associated with the flu virus but could be caused because of parasites and bacteria. It is usually developed when an individual consumes contaminated water or food or interacts with an infected individual. However, older adults, infants, and individuals with weak immune systems find it hard to recover.
Types of stomach flu are caused by four different viruses. The stomach flu that affects infants and kids is rotavirus. There are chances for adults to get rotavirus, but the symptoms and condition will be mild. Norovirus is the main reason for gastroenteritis in adults. Astrovirus and adenovirus are very rare causes of gastroenteritis and it is mostly seen in kids than grownups.
Stomach Flu Symptoms
Gastroenteritis affects the intestines, causing symptoms and signs like:
- Low-grade fever
- Occasional headache or muscle aches
- Vomiting, nausea or both
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Watery, non-bloody diarrhoea.
According to the cause, stomach flu symptoms appear within 48 hours and lasts for about three days. It lasts longer if it is caused due to parasites or bacteria. If the individual has other health issues or when it affects older people and babies, it can be severe and dangerous. As symptoms of stomach flu and viral diarrhoea or diarrhoea caused due to bacteria are the same, most people get confused.
If you are noticing blood in bowel movements, feel dehydrated, vomiting blood, or experiencing a fever of above 104 F, you need to visit a gastroenterologist.
Who is at Risk?
Stomach flu is a common condition and affects people of all backgrounds, races, and ages. People who are highly susceptible to stomach flu include:
- Dormitory residents, churchgoers, or schoolchildren: When groups of people mingle in close quarters, there are chances for the passing of intestinal infection.
- Older adults: The immune system of adults would get less efficient as they age. Adults residing in a nursing home should be careful as they will be in close association with others who have chances to pass germs.
- Young children: Kids who are in elementary school and child care centres are highly vulnerable as it takes some time for their immune system to develop and get matured.
- Individuals with a weak immune system: If the individual’s immune system is weak due to chemotherapy, certain medical conditions, or AIDS/HIV, they have high chances for stomach flu.
Stomach Flu Causes
Stomach flu is caused due to several viruses like rotavirus, norovirus, adenovirus, and astrovirus.
Other causes of stomach flu include-Bacterial gastroenteritis. These are microscopic living organisms that exist around us. Most of them are harmless and some are helpful. However certain bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella can enter into your water or food, resulting in stomach problems. They can enter into food at any time when prepared, shipped, stored, processed, or harvested. It is also possible to get stomach flu when the bad bacteria transfer to food from utensils or kitchen surfaces. If you are travelling, ensure to avoid consuming raw vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, shellfish, and street food.
How is Stomach Flu Diagnosed?
It is recommended to approach a stomach flu doctor when you come to know that you have consumed contaminated water or food or have shared towels, food, or utensils with an individual who is infected.
Stomach flu diagnosis mainly depends according to the symptoms, a physical test, and the existence of similar cases. The physician would first try to determine the reasons for stomach flu before conducting the test. Norovirus or rotavirus can be detected by performing a stool test. However, there are no particular tests to determine other viruses or bacteria that cause stomach flu. The physician may suggest giving a stool tester to eliminate the possible parasitic or bacterial infection. If the individual has mild symptoms, the physician may not recommend tests. In very rare cases, the gastroenterologist conducts a digital rectal test.
How is Stomach Flu Treated?
There is no specific treatment or medicine for stomach flu. It usually subsides on its own without medications. If you have stomach flu, your physician may suggest consuming liquids like broths, sports drinks, fruit juices, and water to replace lost electrolytes and fluids and avoid dehydration. If the individual is healthy, he/she can recover without complications.
If the diarrhoea is severe, you can consult gastroenterologist at Cure.fit to get great care and treatment. In most cases, over the counter medicines are not recommended for children. It is best to discuss with your physician for effective stomach flu treatment for children. Do not eat solids for about three to four hours. Drink sufficient liquid in the form of small frequent sips.
How can Stomach Flu be prevented?
Prevention of stomach flu is possible and simple if you follow certain precautions:
- Wash hands frequently with water and soap especially after changing diapers, after and before preparing, handling or consuming food, and after utilizing the washroom.
- Ensure to clean surfaces that have chances to get in contact with vomit or infected stool like changing tables and countertops.
- If you notice symptoms of viral gastroenteritis, do not prepare or handle food for others when you are unwell.
An early stomach flu cure approved for infants is the rotavirus vaccine. It is effective and given for infants in the form of two to three doses.