Last Updated: 24th July, 2022
Stomach flu is a prevalent disease around the globe, also known as gastroenteritis. It is defined as the inflammation of the mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestine).
Categorized by vomiting and diarrhea, an annual research published in the Journal Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology shows that stomach flu impacts 3 to 5 billion kids and accounts for 1.5 to 2.5 million fatalities per year.
Even adults may suffer from stomach flu, although it is prevalent in kids. Most individuals, however, do not understand what causes gastrointestinal flu, how long gastrointestinal flu lasts and how you treat gastrointestinal flu. So to help you get a clear understanding about the gastroenteritis, we have answered some of the commonly asked stomach flu issues.
What Causes Stomach Flu?
Viruses are the most common causes of gastroenteritis, which are responsible for around 70% of cases of acute gastroenteritis in kids. Even though there are more than 20 unique kinds of viruses that can trigger gastrointestinal flu, rotavirus is one of the prevalent viruses. It accounts for around 30% to 70% of all hospitalizations of acute gastroenteritis in children aged 6 months to 2 years.
Rotavirus infection can occur all throughout the year, however, it peaks during winters. Adenovirus, astrovirus and Feline calicivirus are the other prevalent viruses that can trigger stomach flu.
Even though viruses generally trigger stomach flu, the same disease may be caused by various bacteria and parasites. Bacterial infection accounts for 10% to 20% of all the cases of acute gastroenteritis. Common organisms causing stomach cancer include Salmonella, Yersinia, Shigella, and the protozoan species causing the disease include Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica, and Cryptosporidium.
How Does The Stomach Flu Transmit?
It is a highly infectious condition which can spread through contaminated food or water or through close contact with the people suffering from the condition. It is easy for the virus to spread in close groups such as childcare facilities, schools, nursing homes, and cruise ships. Some of the common modes of transmission of the virus include:
- Improper handling of food, especially by food vendors and handlers
- Not washing your hands properly
- Water contaminated by sewage
- Consumption of raw or contaminated foods
What Are Stomach Flu Signs And Symptoms?
Typically, after a day or two after infection, the symptoms of viral gastroenteritis begin and might even last about three days. If bacteria or parasite cause stomach flu, the symptoms may last longer.
Common stomach flu signs and symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting,
- A headache,
- Abdominal pain,
- Loss of appetite
Rotavirus can affect adults, too, but the symptoms are usually milder. The symptoms might be severe on high-risk individuals such as children under five years of age, older individuals, and people with a compromised immune system.
When Should You See A Doctor For Gastrointestinal Flu?
Stomach flu is often mistaken for other health problems such as food intolerance (lactose intolerance), irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. Some medicines, just like antibiotics, may also trigger symptoms similar to viral gastroenteritis.
Hence, it is advised that if the symptoms do not get better within two to three days or if the symptoms start getting worse, it is wise to consult a doctor.
Gastroenteritis if left untreated, can lead to serious health complications that range from nutritional deficiency and muscle weakness to dehydration.
How Do You Treat The Stomach Flu?
Stomach flu treatment is based on symptoms. The treatment’s main purpose is to prevent dehydration and make sure the proper balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body. Hence, it is important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and taking enough rest.
For children, Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS) could also be helpful in alleviating the stomach troubles and replenishing the ruined electrolytes and fluids. In severe cases, hospitalization and intravenous fluids might be needed as per the doctor’s advice.
Your doctor might well recommend medicines like antibiotics to regulate vomiting and nausea. If you experience abdominal pain, then painkillers might be prescribed. Minimize using antibiotics as viruses cause stomach flu in most instances, and use of antibiotics would not provide any cure. Do not self-medicate and always consult your doctor before taking any medicines (including over the counter MEDs).
One of the prevalent issues most people with stomach flu, ask is what to eat and what to prevent. Well, doctors recommend a highly nutritious and balanced diet. It is usually advised to opt for bland food such as rice, potatoes, toast, and bananas as it is not only easy to digest but also help you to fight the stomach upset.
Do avoid foods that might cause further stomach upset such as foods rich in salt, sugar and fats, caffeine and dairy products.