A stomach flu or viral gastroenteritis as is its medical terminology is usually a common virus that causes havoc in your intestines.
Is Stomach Flu Contagious?
The answer is YES. Typically stomach flu symptoms begin to present themselves one to three days after you have been exposed to an infected person. Viral and bacterial gastroenteritis is caused by a virus or bacterium which are easily, readily and rapidly spread, especially in group settings in a contained environment, for example; on a cruise ship, dormitory, school, corporate office, or hotel convention. In fact with stomach flu you are actually very contagious even before you have symptoms of the stomach flu, and even remain so well after your symptoms have subsided, in fact for as long as two weeks. Children tend to remain contagious even longer than adults.
What are the Symptoms of Stomach Flu (viral gastroenteritis)?
Symptoms of stomach flu are:
- Abdominal pain and/or cramping
- Fever (typically below 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Body aches & pains
- Diarrhea (typically thin, watery)
- Lethargy (tired, worn out feeling)
It can sometimes be difficult to know the difference between viral gastroenteritis and bacterial gastroenteritis because the symptoms are nearly identical with the exception of the symptom of bloody stools often found with bacterial stomach flu, but the seriousness of the infection between the two can be significant.
While viral gastroenteritis is relatively harmless, bacterial gastroenteritis is usually harmless as well, but when caused in particular by E. coli it can have serious consequences such as; intestinal bleeding, severe anemia, and left untreated even kidney failure. If you have stomach flu symptoms with bloody stools you should seek medical treatment immediately, contact from your primary care physician or local urgent care center.
What is the Treatment for Viral Gastroenteritis?
There is no cure for a viral infection and the same is true for viral gastroenteritis, basically the virus must run its course through your body. What can be done are home health remedies that will help you get through the nasty bug working its way through your system, here are some helpful home remedies:
- Medications – There are numerous over the counter medications you can take to help alleviate some of the nasty flu symptoms ranging from fever reducers, pain relievers to antidiarrheal and anti-nausea medications. You should consult with your health care provider or local pharmacist to discuss which over the counter medications would be best for you and your personal health history.
- Replenish fluids – Stomach flu can often dehydrate your body, it is important to try to rehydrate your body methodically. Because stomach flu typically includes nausea and vomiting it can be difficult to keep fluids down, so pick your fluids wisely. Sipping clear liquids such as water or chewing on ice chips (on a schedule to avoid dehydration) is advisable at first, slowly integrate replenishing drinks as your ability to keep liquids down increases; which could include clear broth (chicken), sports drinks (Gatorade to replace lost electrolytes) and warm tea such as chamomile (to soothe the tummy).
- Get plenty of rest – Your body is under attack, the best medicine for any ailment is rest. Sleep allows your body’s immune system to strengthen and go to work for you full force while all your other body systems are at rest, utilizing the minimum output of energy on healing and giving your body’s defense systems what it needs to work at their maximum for you.
- Integrate replenishing foods – As your stomach allows, slowly introduce foods that will help you heal, most doctors recommend the BRAT diet; this includes Bananas (to replace lost potassium and strengthen stomach lining), Rice (white rice is easily digested and the sugar from the carbs will help replace energy) Applesauce is easily digested and contains pectin which will aid in relieving diarrhea, Toast (white bread helps to bind with other foods). As you begin to feel like eating again avoid foods that are; fatty, fried, salty, or dairy and anything with caffeine or fiber, as your bowels are already loose. Once you are feeling 100 percent again you can return to your normal routine and diet.
Do I Need to see a Doctor?
In most instances the stomach flu resolves itself within four to ten days, if you are not improving consistently after ten days you should consult your health care provider or visit your local urgent care center as soon as possible for further diagnostic testing and diagnosis.