Stomach flu is the common name for “viral gastroenteritis”, which is a common virus which at any stage can be marked by watery diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and intestinal cramping that could be severe. The severity of the symptoms and length of down-time as a result of the virus is individual. Prevention is the appropriate focus as there is no known cure for stomach flu.
Symptoms of Stomach Flu
If you are experiencing any of the below listed symptoms—even if it is in conjunction with the above symptoms—you could have stomach flu. The symptoms may appear anywhere from one to three days after the person is infected, fluctuate in severity during that time and last anywhere from three to ten days.
- Low-grade fever
- Body aches and a slight headache
- Nausea and-or vomiting—both are common.
- Cramps in the upper and or lower abdomen
- Watery diarrhea that should not contain blood. If it does you may have another, more serious infection.
These symptoms are similar to other types of infections such as bacterial infections that are indigenous to food poisoning and to food-born parasites. Some of these bacterial infections are—giardia, parasites, E coli or salmonella.
Though dehydration can be fatal, it is rare that this occurs. The elderly and young children who are largely dependent on others to make the right call are most at risk. If you are healthy and always drink enough to replace the liquids, salts and electrolytes you lose during dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea—you should come through it fine.
When to See a Doctor
- If your fever persists at or above 104F. At this point it gets dangerous to the cells in the brain and could cause permanent damage.
- When bowel movements contain blood.
- Dehydration—this is caused by the diarrhea. If you experience a light-headed or dizzy feeling—deep yellow urine or very little urine—severe weakness—continuous and severe thirst with a dry mouth.
- Blood present in vomit
- Vomiting which persists for two days
- If you cannot keep any liquids down for at least 24 hours
- Fever persists at 102F or better
- Experiences severe irritability and lethargy. This means a dreamy or confused fog.
- Complains of discomfort or pain a lot
- Dehydration—Begin to monitor your infant’s urination compared to what their normal output is. If they are drinking more and urinating less—and color changes.
- Vomiting that lasts more than just a few hours.
- If there has been no urination for six hours
- Has blood present in stools or in diarrhea
- If the “soft-spot” at the top of the head, also called the fontanel is sunken in.
- Has no tears when they cry
- Has a dry mouth
- Has sleepiness that is not normal for them—seems drowsy or is not responsive.
Be aware that spiting up is normal for all babies. Vomiting is not normal for babies—period. If your infant is vomiting then they need medical attention.
Causes of Stomach Flu
There are many ways an individual can come across a stomach-flu virus. The most likely culprit is eating contaminated food or liquid. This is because you are ingesting it directly into the body and sending it directly into the stomach and intestines during digestion. This is why the symptoms begin so quickly and seen to “strike out of the blue”. You can also contract it from sharing anything from a glass, towel or napkin to utensils used by a contaminated person.
- Anyone with a weakened immune system can leave a door open for contracting these viruses that cause stomach flu. Those who undergo chemotherapy—have HIV/Aides—or any medical condition which chronically compromise the immune system.
- Kids that are of pre-K age are at risk because their immune systems are not fully developed and they are over-exposed to childhood diseases via contact with other children.
- Large groups of people who congregate on a regular basis. For example, churchgoers, teachers and students in dorms.
- The elderly can be susceptible in nursing homes or hospitals. These institutions are constantly bombarded by these viruses and could lead to small epidemics.