Stomach Flu Facts

May 22, 2011 | Health Advice | By: Carolyn Enders | Tags:

Stomach Flu – Viral Gastroenteritis

Stomach cramping, vomiting, and diarrhea – signs of the stomach flu!  It seems as though this year, what is commonly called the “stomach flu” has been widespread in the community.

So what exactly is the stomach flu?

Stomach flu  is not actually related to the influenza virus at all.  Stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis can be caused by several different viruses – adenovirus, norovirus, and rotavirus – most commonly.  People usually have watery diarrhea and vomiting.  Sometimes people may also have fever, headache, and abdominal cramping.

How long does it last?

It usually only lasts for a couple of days, but it can last for up to 10 days.  If the symptoms persist, it may not actually be a virus, but a bacteria like salmonella , E. coli, or campylobacter or a parasite like giardia.  Symptoms usually start 1-2 days after being exposed.

What can I do at home?

It is very important to stay hydrated and drink lots of fluids.  The CDC recommends that families with children keep a supply of oral rehydration solution (ORS) at home, so that they can begin giving the ORS as soon as the diarrhea first occurs.

Eating bland foods such may help to settle your stomach.

Do not take antibiotics unless recommended by your doctor because taking antibiotics is unlikely to help and sometimes can worsen diarrhea by changing the normal intestinal flora.

When should I go to the doctor?

If you become dehydrated from vomiting and diarrhea and are unable to drink enough fluids to replace what is being lost, you should be seen by a doctor.  Signs of dehydration include:

  • excessive thirst
  • dry mouth
  • small or concentrated (dark yellow) urine output
  • lightheadedness

You should also see your doctor if there is:

  • blood in the vomit or diarrhea
  • temperature of over 104oF in adults or older children, or 102oF in young children (under age 2)

Viral gastroenteritis can make infants, older adults, and immune compromised people very ill.

What treatments are available?

Because viral gastroenteritis is caused by a virus, we do not have medicines that will treat the virus.  Doctors often recommend loperamide or Imodium, which may provide symptomatic relief although it will not treat the virus.

How can I avoid getting viral gastroenteritis?

Wash your hands often especially after close contact with someone with viral gastroenteritis.

For further information follow the link to the CDC website.