- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
Stomach Flu Symptoms: Viral Gastroenteritis
Don’t be surprised to hear that about 200 000 people are hospitalized every year due to stomach flu symptoms. Stomach flu is very common illness and brings with it several days of misery. The medical term for stomach flu is Viral Gastroenteritis. It occurs when one or a variety of viruses invade the body and attack the gastrointestinal tract (stomach and small intestine).
Stomach flu symptoms are most common from October till March.
The symptoms of stomach flu include:
- sore throat
- head ache
- muscle ache
- stomach pain
Is Stomach Flu Contagious?
Stomach flu is very contagious. It is mainly spread when fecal particles from an infected person is introduced into the oral cavity of an uninfected person. Children are easily infected as they are more likely to put a contaminated object in their mouth. Imagine the following scenario; a child touches his or her diaper and then grabs a few toys. Another child then takes one of these toys and puts it in his or her mouth. This mode of transmission is also applicable for many other diseases. This is why hygiene is a very important method of prevention.
Can it be Life-Threatening?
Stomach flu can be life-threatening. One of the most important things to look out for is dehydration. Dehydration can occur if you fail to rehydrate after losing the majority of fluids in your body through vomiting and diarrhea. Inadequate body fluids has an immediate severe impact on body systems; this makes dehydration life-threatening.
Warning signs of dehydration include but are not limited to;
- production of less
- darker urine
- dry mouth
- sticky mouth
- cracked lips
- dry skin
- light-headedness and dizziness
Thirst is also a warning sign of dehydration but occurs at a later stage. So, you may already be dehydrated by the time you are thirsty.
How to Prevent Stomach Flu
First of all, prevention is better than cure. Stomach flu vaccine is available at least for infants. It is worth getting the stomach flu vaccination in order to prevent infection during the winter months. A vaccinated person is far less likely to bring home the disease than an unvaccinated person.
Secondly, remember mom’s advice; wash your hands properly before every meal. Wash your hands properly before and after changing a diaper. Wash your hand properly after using the bathroom or when you think you may have touched something that might have been contaminated.
Clean all commonly used surfaces regularly. The viruses can move from one person to the next through contact with commonly used surfaces.
Keep your children at home when they are sick with stomach flu. This will help prevent spread of the disease, especially in school or in the child care center.
Is There Treatment for Stomach Flu?
No, there is no treatment for stomach flu, the body usually gets rid of the bug on its own. If you were unfortunate and got infected, the symptoms may last for up to 7 days. The infection is caused by a virus, hence antibiotics are useless against stomach flu.
Remember to drink enough fluids containing electrolytes. Drink in little frequent sips to replenish your body fluids. Emptying your glass in a gulp could cause you to throw-up.
Get plenty of sleep. If you have fever and chills, grab a good blanket and keep warm. You should gradually get better with time as the toxin is usually expelled from the body naturally without any real medicine.
Call the doctor if you have any warning signs of dehydration or any worries at all. The doctor may prescribe you something to calm the diarrhea and vomiting. Seek medical attention immediately if your symptoms become severe, your symptoms do not stop after 3 days or you have been vomiting for more than 24 hours.
What is the Difference Between Stomach Flu and Real Flu?
Peak flu season is usually from October till March. During other periods of the year, many people infected with influenza flu mistake their flu-like symptoms with those of stomach flu. Below are the major differences between the two.
- A telltale symptom of stomach flu is fever - the absence of fever means it is most likely not stomach flu.
- Stomach flu hits a lot harder - one moment you feel fine and out of a sudden you get very sick.
- Stomach flu is caused by a variety of viruses including the rotaviruses, adenovirus, astrovirus and noroviruses while the influenza flu is caused by influenza viruses.
- Stomach flu attacks the stomach and small intestine while the influenza flu attacks the nose, throat and lungs - but sometimes also causes stomach problems.
So a flu shot will not protect you from the stomach flu. The annual flu shot protects us against the influenza flu, which is very different from the stomach flu.