A girl holding her stomach with pain

What is Stomach Flu?


Everyone knows what stomach flu is, but it can be confusing because no single medical term defines this illness.

Simply stated, the stomach flu is a group of symptoms that are typically associated with viral or bacterial infections that affect the stomach and intestines.

The symptoms of stomach flu can vary depending on the virus or bacteria that is the cause. Most people experience stomach flu as a combination of stomach ailments, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or fever.

The initial stages begin with chills, fever, and stomach pain. There is often no relief from these initial stages because the stomach flu can lead to constant vomiting or diarrhea until it runs its course. The illness may last anywhere from 24 to 72 hours in most cases. Because stomach flu does not require medication, little can be done for stomach flu besides resting and drinking fluids to stay hydrated until the virus runs its course. Some over-the-counter medications are available that may help reduce stomach discomfort during episodes of stomach flu if taken at the first signs of disease onset.

The only way to prevent stomach flu is through good hygiene practices, such as washing hands frequently, avoiding close contact with people if sick, and cooking food properly.

Symptoms of Stomach Flu

The stomach flu is a very common illness that can cause a variety of symptoms like,

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain or cramping
  • dehydration results in an increase in thirst
  • Diarrhea

Causes of Stomach Flu

There is multiple causes of stomach flu, the most common of which is viral gastroenteritis. This is caused by viruses, including norovirus, which can easily spread among people in close quarters & rotavirus is caused when someone puts their fingers or other contaminated objects into their mouths. Other common causes of stomach flu are -

  • Food poisoning can be caused by eating contaminated food or drinking unclean water.
  • Bacteria and parasites are also common causes of stomach flu. Sharing utensils, towels or food with infected can also lead to stomach flu.
  • Some other causes include stress, changes in diet and hormones, and certain medications.

If you are experiencing any stomach flu symptoms, it is important to see a doctor determine the cause and receive appropriate stomach flu treatment.

Risks & Complications

The very young, elderly, and adults with disabilities are vulnerable to stomach flu. This is because they have a suppressed immune system, making it difficult for them to fight off infection.

The most common victims of the virus include young children with their still-developing immunity and older citizens due to their weakening defense systems and their ability to tolerate a ht to their immunity.

Complications associated with stomach flu are dehydration, low blood pressure, kidney failure and potentially even death. Stomach Flu Treatment includes rest, plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and over-the-counter medications from helping with stomach symptoms.

It is important to drink plenty of fluids such as water and coconut water whether or not you are vomiting and have diarrhea. A doctor may give medications intravenously (through an IV) to correct dehydration and relieve other symptoms for severe cases. Antibiotics are not effective against stomach viruses, so they are not used to treat this type of illness.

Stomach Flu Prevention

The best way to prevent stomach flu is by following these precautions:

  • Get your child vaccinated. A vaccine against gastroenteritis caused by the rotavirus is available in some countries, including India. Given to children in the first year of life, the vaccine appears to be effective in preventing severe symptoms of this illness.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly. In addition, make sure your children do, too. If your children are older, teach them to wash their hands, especially after using the toilet. It's best to use warm water and soap and to rub hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. Alcohol-based sanitisers also work well.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people and do not share food or drinks.
  • Disinfect surfaces regularly. This includes countertops, doorknobs, and faucet handles. Use an all-purpose household cleaner or a bleach solution (made by mixing five tablespoons of bleach with 1 quart of water)
  • If you think you have stomach flu, stay home from work or school until you feel better.

Stomach Flu V/S Food Poisoning

Stomach Flu is usually viral gastroenteritis. Stomach flu can be caused due to improper handling of food or drinking water, which results in infection with viruses. Food poisoning results from toxins of bacteria or viruses released after ingesting contaminated food. Patients can usually tell about food poisoning after ingesting a specific food.

Signs and symptoms of food poisoning and stomach flu usually overlap with nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea being the usual symptoms of both. Usually, food poisoning resolves within a few hours after vomiting and diarrhea as the toxins released by the bacteria/virus in the food clears up. Stomach flu may persist for a few days and need a longer duration of rest.

When to see a doctor

Typical symptoms of stomach flu are also features of other major illnesses, which may need further evaluation and stomach flu treatment by a doctor.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, please consult with your doctor:

  • Diarrhea for more than three days
  • Bloody stools
  • Vomiting for more than 24 hours
  • Severe stomach pain or cramping
  • Fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion or change in mental status
  • Excessive thirst
  • Lack of urination.

Enquire Now at Gleneagles Global, Lakdikapul, Department of Gastroenterology, for any stomach related issues.

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