Despite of what it’s called, stomach flu is not actually the flu. Rather, it is an inflammation of the stomach as well as the intestines caused by a virus, and that’s why it is referred to as viral gastroenteritis in the medical field. Despite of the fact that there are not less than 20 million cases of stomach flu reported in the US each year, not many people know a lot of important matters about this common and contagious disease — yes, it can spread from person to person!
Scrambling to get a flu shot won’t save you from having a bout of stomach flu. Just like what’s mentioned above, it’s not the flu. How can you save yourself from getting it? By washing your hands, cooking your food thoroughly and refraining from sharing utensils with someone who is diagnosed with it. Also, it’s also a good idea to equip your self with some of the most essential information about stomach flu. Continue reading!
Causes and Risk Factors
Stomach flu is caused by a virus. There are many different kinds of viruses that can be blamed for it, but a couple of them are the most commonly guilty parties: the novirus and rotavirus.
The novirus is the common cause of stomach flu among adults, although anyone at any age can get infected by it because it is highly contagious. You can easily get the novovirus in places where they are rampant, such as daycare centers, schools, nursing homes, cruise ships and other crowded places.
On the other hand, the rotavirus is the most common cause of stomach flu among infants and young children. Youngsters may spread the virus to adults, usually through the mouth. The signs and symptoms of stomach flu tend to appear in just a couple of days after being infected with the rotavirus.
Children below 5 years of age and the elderly, especially those who are living in nursing homes, are at higher risk of ending up with stomach flu. The same is true for those whose immune systems are weakened. Being in a crowded place can considerably increase your chances of ending up with stomach flu. Anyone who consumes contaminated water or food may get infected and suffer from this inflammatory condition of the stomach and intestines.
Signs, Symptoms and Complications
It’s not uncommon for the different signs and symptoms of stomach flu to appear in just a day or two after being infected with the novirus or rotavirus. Some of them include: loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, abdominal pain, sweaty and clammy skin, muscle and joint pain, headaches, fever and watery diarrhea. All of them can last for up to 10 days.
Dehydration is the most common complication of stomach flu, especially among infants and children, due to the fact that the infection causes watery diarrhea. It’s important to note that dehydration is a serious matter and can lead to death. An infant of child requires immediate medical attention if he or she has: diarrhea that lasts for several days, sunken fontanelle and eyes, dark-colored urine or no urine for several hours, dizziness and lethargy.
Treatment and Home Care
Since antibiotics have no effect against viruses, a doctor won’t prescribe them to someone who is suffering from stomach flu. The focus will be on warding off dehydration. In severe cases of stomach flu, the patient may require hospitalization and rehydration by means of intravenous fluids.
If you are having a bout of stomach flu and your doctor told you that you may take care of yourself at home, there are some steps that you may take. Drinking plenty of fluids can help prevent dehydration. You may take sports drinks to replace lost electrolytes. For children, oral rehydration salts available OTC are recommended. It’s a good idea to eat small meals only to allow your stomach and intestines to recover from the inflammation. Definitely, you should get plenty of rest as you may feel tired and weak throughout the infection.