What is stomach flu?
Viral gastroenteritis or stomach flu is an intestinal infection characterized by watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting, and sometimes fever. It could be a serious problem for infants, older adults and people with compromised immune systems, which can be deadly.
How common is stomach flu?
This health condition is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of stomach flu?
The common symptoms of stomach flu are:
- Watery, usually non-bloody diarrhea — bloody diarrhea usually means you have a different, more severe infection.
- Abdominal cramps and pain.
- Nausea, vomiting or both.
- Occasional muscle aches or headache.
- Low-grade fever.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Unable to keep liquids down for 24 hours.
- Vomit for more than two days or vomiting blood.
- You’re dehydrated — signs of dehydration include excessive thirst, dry mouth, deep yellow urine or little or no urine, and severe weakness, dizziness or lightheadedness.
- Blood in your bowel movements.
- Fever above 400C for adults, 90C for infants and children.
What causes stomach flu?
The most common way to develop viral gastroenteritis — often called stomach flu — is through contact with an infected person or by ingesting contaminated food or water. A number of viruses can cause gastroenteritis, including Noroviruses, Rotavirus.
What increases my risk for stomach flu?
There are many risk factors for stomach flu, such as:
- Young children.Children in child care centers or elementary schools may be especially vulnerable because it takes time for a child’s immune system to mature.
- Older adults.Adult immune systems tend to become less efficient later in life. Older adults in nursing homes, in particular, are vulnerable because their immune systems weaken and they live in close contact with others who may pass along germs.
- Schoolchildren, churchgoers or dormitory residents.Anywhere that groups of people come together in close quarters can be an environment for an intestinal infection to get passed.
- Anyone with a weakened immune system.If your resistance to infection is low — for instance, if your immune system is compromised by HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy or another medical condition — you may be especially at risk.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is stomach flu diagnosed?
Symptom – based and a physical exam will be used to diagnose gastroenteritis and sometimes on the presence of similar cases in your community. A rapid stool test can detect rotavirus or norovirus, bacterial or parasitic infection.
How is stomach flu treated?
There’s often no specific medical treatment for viral gastroenteritis. Antibiotics aren’t effective against viruses, and overusing them can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Treatment initially consists of self-care measures.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage stomach flu?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with stomach flu:
- Drink clear liquids such as water and broth, are the best type to consume, avoid using caffeinated drinks, alcohol.
- Eating easy-to-digest foods, such as soda crackers, toast, gelatin, bananas, rice, and chicken. Stop eating if your nausea returns.
- Avoid certain foods and substances until you feel better. These include dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and fatty or highly seasoned foods.
- Get plenty of rest. The illness and dehydration may have made you weak and tired.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Viral gastroenteritis. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/viral-gastroenteritis/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20019350. Accessed September 26, 2016.
Viral gastroenteritis. http://www.webmd.com/children/features/the-truth-about-stomach-flu#1. Accessed September 26, 2016.
Review Date: October 7, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017