Stomach flu is not related to influenza, although the name may suggest otherwise. It is characterized by the inflammation of the stomach and the intestines. The following write-up provides information on this condition.
Also known by the name gastroenteritis, stomach flu is an infection that causes the stomach and intestines to become inflamed. This condition is likely to affect people with a compromised immune system, older adults, and infants. It could be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites that might enter the body through contaminated food or water.
Common indicants include watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramps in the abdominal area, and low-grade fever. These symptoms might be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, occasional muscle aches, and headaches. Usually, the diarrhea is only watery. However, if it contains blood, then it might indicate a severe infection. The incubation period tends to range from 4 hours to 1-2 days. However, it might depend upon the type of causal agent. In mild cases, these symptoms might last for a couple of days. However, in some cases, they may even last as long as 10 days.
The causal bacteria for gastroenteritis include Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Shigella. Viruses such as adenoviruses, rotaviruses, astroviruses, and noroviruses are also known to be the causal pathogens of stomach flu. Parasites and protozoans such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium could also be the causal agents. A person may contract the infection by coming in contact with contaminated food or water. The causal agents might contaminate the food if the food is not stored or prepared in a hygienic manner.
The use of antibiotics is of no help in case of viral gastroenteritis. Even in case of bacterial gastroenteritis, antibiotics are prescribed only in case of severe diarrhea. Doctors usually recommend patients to follow some self-care measures at home. The first thing to be done is to not eat solid food till the stomach settles. Drinking plenty of liquid daily is required in order to prevent dehydration. Drinking Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) is recommended. Sucking on ice chips or taking clear soda and non-caffeinated drinks also helps.
Thereafter, eating can be resumed gradually. It is preferable to begin with bland foods and those which are easy digestible. Common examples include rice, bananas, gelatin, soda crackers, etc. It is also wise to refrain from having dairy products, fatty foods, alcohol, and caffeinated drinks. Getting plenty of rest is also important. Do not self-medicate. It is advisable to consult a doctor for proper treatment.
Gastroenteritis can be prevented by following proper personal hygiene. Washing hands thoroughly, especially after washroom visits, and using separate personal items, are some important considerations to pay heed to. Also, avoid coming in close contact with an affected person. It is also important to be more careful while traveling to other countries. Make sure you avoid street food, or food that might not be hygienically prepared. Drink boiled water. Raw food must be avoided and so should undercooked meat and fish. Get yourself vaccinated against the rotavirus, as it does help reduce the risk of the infection.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.