Stomach Flu? No Such Thing!

10 12 2015

The next time your friend says she has stomach flu, you can look her in the eye and say, “Nah, don’t think so. There’s no such thing!”

What she probably has is viral gastroenteritis. In other words, a gastro bug.

The field of gastroenterology has to do with upsets in the stomach and intestines, and it’s called ‘gastro’ for short.

Gastro bugs are caused by any number of viruses, including norovirus and rotavirus.

These bugs that upset our stomach and intestines can be found in the food we eat or the water we drink. They’re primarily spread through the fecal-oral route. This happens when someone who is infected doesn’t wash his hands after using the toilet, and teeny bits of poop are transferred from his hands to the food he’s preparing. We then eat that food and become infected ourselves.

Or, an infected person who hasn’t cleaned her hands after using the toilet might simply touch a surface, such as a tabletop or doorknob, and contaminate it with a one of these viruses. We then come along and touch the same surface. The virus is introduced to our system when we touch our mouth or nose or eyes.

Symptoms of a gastro bug include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Body aches

Gastro bugs and flu share some symptoms, which may explain the conviction held by many that they have “stomach flu” when what they really have is a gastro bug.BristolStoolChart

If you pick up such a bug, you’ll want to watch out for dehydration. With diarrhea and vomiting, it’s likely that you’ll be low on fluids. You should drink sports drinks and oral rehydration fluids that you can get over the counter.

Pay attention to how you feel because dehydration isn’t something to ignore. It can quickly go from mild to serious. Check with your healthcare provider to determine treatment options.

Your provider will probably suggest certain foods, such as bread, cereal, bananas, and other items, to counteract the diarrhea. If necessary, there are OTC medications to slow diarrhea, or if the infection progresses, prescription drugs may be needed, or even hospitalization.

One thing that you won’t use to fight a gastro bug is antibiotics. Gastro bugs are usually caused by viruses, and antibiotics only fight bacteria.

Clean hands are the best prevention, along with vaccination when available (babies can be vaccinated against rotavirus).

Visit NIH for more information on gastro bugs.

 

by Trish Parnell





Gastro Bugs

17 09 2012

There is no such thing as “stomach flu,” despite the cavalier use of the phrase in some circles. What’s really going on is usually viral gastroenteritis.

Viral gastroenteritis isn’t caused by just one thing—it can be the result of any one of many different viruses, such as norovirus or rotavirus.

A gastro bug, as I like to call it, can be in the food or water we consume and will most commonly cause diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and/or abdominal pain or discomfort.

Sometimes, it can also cause you to have a fever or chills, clammy skin, muscle or joint pain, and may put you off your feed. (That’s a “duh,” isn’t it!)

With liquids of various sorts pouring out of you, dehydration is a concern. Here are the signs, symptoms, and potential treatments to consider, as specified by NIH:

Signs and tests

The healthcare provider will look for signs of dehydration, including:

  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Lethargy or coma (severe dehydration)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low or no urine output; concentrated urine that looks dark yellow
  • Markedly sunken soft spots (fontanelles) on the top of an infant’s head
  • No tears
  • Sunken eyes

Tests that examine stool samples may be used to identify which virus is causing the sickness. This is usually not needed for viral gastroenteritis. A stool culture may be done to find out whether diarrhea are causing the problem.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to prevent dehydration by making sure the body has enough water and fluids. Fluids and electrolytes (salt and minerals) that are lost through diarrhea or vomiting must be replaced by drinking extra fluids. Even if you are able to eat, you should still drink extra fluids between meals.

  • Older children and adults can drink sports beverages such as Gatorade, but these should not be used for younger children. Instead, use the electrolyte and fluid replacement solutions or freezer pops available in food and drug stores.
  • Do NOT use fruit juice (including apple juice), sodas or cola (flat or bubbly), Jell-O, or broth. All of these have a lot of sugar, which makes diarrhea worse, and they don’t replace lost minerals.
  • Drink small amounts of fluid (2-4 oz.) every 30-60 minutes. Do not try to force large amounts of fluid at one time, which can cause vomiting. Use a teaspoon or syringe for an infant or small child.
  • Breast milk or formula can be continued along with extra fluids. You do NOT need to switch to a soy formula.

Food may be offered often in small amounts. Suggested foods include:

  • Cereals, bread, potatoes, lean meats
  • Plain yogurt, bananas, fresh apples
  • Vegetables

People with diarrhea who are unable to drink fluids because of nausea may need intravenous (directly into a vein) fluids. This is especially true in small children.

Antibiotics do not work for viruses.

Drugs to slow down the amount of diarrhea (anti-diarrheal medications) should not be given without first talking with your healthcare provider. DO NOT give these anti-diarrheal medications to children unless directed to do so by a healthcare provider.

People taking water pills (diuretics) who develop diarrhea may be told by their healthcare provider to stop taking the diuretic during the acute episode. However, DO NOT stop taking any prescription medicine without first talking to your healthcare provider.

The risk of dehydration is greatest in infants and young children, so parents should closely monitor the number of wet diapers changed per day when their child is sick.

You can buy medicines at the drugstore that can help stop or slow diarrhea.

  • Do not use these medicines without talking to your healthcare provider if you have bloody diarrhea, a fever, or if the diarrhea is severe.
  • Do not give these medicines to children.

Viral gastroenteritis can become a serious illness, so watch for the symptoms and alert your healthcare provider if symptoms worsen.

Washing hands is the best prevention, along with vaccination when available (babies can be vaccinated against rotavirus).

Visit these websites for more information on gastro bugs

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001298/
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/revb/gastro/faq.htm
By Trish Parnell (really by the NIH with a few asides from me)

Image courtesy of Examiner