Stomach Flu: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment for Viral Gastroenteritis

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Stomach Flu: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment for Viral Gastroenteritis

Stomach infection is common, but the severity may differ from one individual to another. Every year, millions of people get infected with some or the other stomach-related symptomatic infections. Although it is tough to know the exact date of infected people, surveys highlight that more than 600 million people get infected with stomach flu every year across the globe. Wondering the prime cause behind such huge numbers of infections is obvious. Stomach flu is a contagious infection, which is also a reason why so many people fall into the trap of it. 

Developing countries, due to many reasons, can be a major threat of acute gastroenteritis, especially among children below the age of 5. If left untreated during a serious condition, the infection may turn deadly.

What is Stomach Flu?

Stomach flu, as the name suggests, is a stomach and intestine-related infection. It is caused by a virus named Norovirus. Viral gastroenteritis is the medical term for this condition. Gastroenteritis refers to stomach-small intestine inflammation that may cause cramps, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fever, etc. Stomach infection symptoms can be mild to severe, which may require serious medical attention at times. There can be a number of causes behind the infection. Let's understand in detail.

Types and Causes of Stomach Infections

Catching contagious flu and infections is common, and most people suffer some sort of viral infection in their lives. The commonly used term ‘flu’ may refer to influenza, which is a respiratory infection. Stomach flu, on the other hand, is caused by a different virus and affects the digestive system. Primarily, there are three types of stomach infections:

Bacterial

Bacteria that infect the stomach and intestine are primarily food- and water-borne. Also, an infected person is capable of spreading the infection by touching other food items.

Common sources are:

  • Contaminated water
  • Undercooked poultry products or meat
  • Deli meat
  • Unwashed edibles
  • Unpasteurised dairy products.

Bacteria causing infections are:

  • Escherichia coli (E. coli) 
  • Salmonella
  • Listeria 
  • Clostridium perfringens
  • Staphylococcus.

Viral

Viruses are the most common cause of gastrointestinal problems. These are also easily communicable from one person to another.

The most common viruses causing stomach flu are:

  • Norovirus
  • Rotavirus
  • Sapovirus
  • Adenovirus
  • Astrovirus

Common sources of virus can be:

  • Contaminated food like shellfish
  • Contaminated water
  • An infected person.

Parasitic

Parasites can also cause gastrointestinal infections. Worms, protozoans, and helminths can cause infections.

Common parasites causing stomach infections:

  • Giardiasis
  • Cryptosporidiosis.

Sources of parasitic infections are:

  • Human faeces in the soil
  • Car faeces
  • Swimming in contaminated water
  • Contaminated drinking water.

Symptoms of Stomach Infections

Symptoms of stomach flu can differ from one person to another and also depending on the severity of the infection. Some of the common stomach infection symptoms are:

  • Diarrhea that may be non-bloody but watery
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • stomach cramps
  • Fever and chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • Body aches
  • Acidity
  • Stomach bloating
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramps.

In case of severe cases, you must not delay and contact your doctor immediately. A doctor can suggest the best remedies for the stomach flu.

How to Cure Stomach Infection?

Stomach flu usually lasts for a few days to a week. In most cases, it is an acute infection which is temporary and may go on its own within a few days. Once your body fights and wins the battle, the symptoms of stomach flu slow down and are cured. However, in some cases, people may have to seek medical attention for fast recovery. Usually, dehydration is a concerning situation where the person may lose the fighting tendency against viruses/bacteria, resulting in poor progress and increased weakness.

There are no specific medicines or treatments for stomach flu. Doctors may recommend suppressants for symptoms of stomach flu, which gradually leads to recovery. Anti-bacterial medicines may not be helpful in case of viral infections. In some cases, the patient may be advised pro-biotics. These are good bacteria present in the intestine that help fight against viruses and bacterial infections. Increasing the amount of probiotics may be helpful. The key is to stay at rest and restore the energy needed for the recovery process.

To ensure fast recovery, there are a few things you must do. These may include:

Take Ample Rest

Exhaustion during stomach flu can worsen the situation. Hence, once the symptoms have begun, make sure to not go out of your home and stay at rest. The more energy you have, the better your body can fight against the infection. Your body needs enough rest for at least 2-3 days to up to a week until the symptoms start to fall down

Hydration

Stomach flu can lead to watery diarrhoea, which can cause dehydration. Losing electrolytes and water content in the body can cause dryness of the mouth and lips. Try to take small sips of fluid throughout the day to gradually gain energy.

Eat

The thought of food may make you feel nauseous at such times, but it cannot be skipped. You must try to have food that is easily digestible, like broth, soup, oats, soda crackers, etc. Eat small amounts, but make sure you do not trigger acidity.

Intravenous Fluids

People suffering from extreme dehydration may find it difficult to get quick energy doses from fluid or food. In such a case, your doctor may recommend intravenous fluids for quick recovery. In a day or two, you may feel better.

Medicines

Medicines to suppress vomiting and diarrhoea may be prescribed by the doctor. Preventing further loss of water and electrolytes is essential, so such medicines may be prescribed.

In conditions where within 2-3 days, if your stomach infection symptoms do not improve, you must consult a doctor. Some people may also get a high fever, and it can be an alarming situation. Apart from these, blood in stool, difficulty peeing or passing stool, extreme abdominal pain, etc., are all indications that you must pay a visit to your doctor.

In Conclusion

The basic mantra to stay safe from contagious infections like stomach flu is hygiene and cleanliness. Most of these viruses spread when you come in contact with an infected object or surface. So, washing hands regularly and maintaining personal hygiene is a must. Apart from this, make sure to eat and drink healthily, especially when not at home or travelling.

As discussed above, stomach flu goes on its own within a few days, but do not ignore any symptoms of serious infections. Getting a doctor's consultation can help you get the best remedies for the stomach flu. Also, don’t forget to protect yourself and your family with a health insurance policy in times of a medical emergency. In your journey of a healthy life, Care Health Insurance is there for you with a range of customisable health insurance plans that ensure your healthcare needs are taken care of.

>> Also Read: Gastroenteritis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Disclaimers

1. The above information is for reference purposes only: Policy Assurance and Claims at the underwriter's discretion.

2. All plan features, benefits, coverage, and claims underwriting are subject to policy terms and conditions. Kindly refer to the brochure, sales prospectus, and policy documents carefully.




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