Stomach flu is a gastrointestinal disease.  Stomach flu and the flu (influenza) are caused by a virus, they are two different diseases. Influenza flu affects the respiratory tract while stomach flu affects the gastrointestinal tract. Influenza flu is caused by Influenza viruses A and B, while stomach flu is majorly caused by the Noroviruses. Stomach flu is also different from food poisoning. Noroviruses are also known as a Norwalk-like virus. Norovirus was initially called “winter vomiting disease” when it was discovered many years ago. Noroviruses have a single-stranded ribonucleic acid genome. An international committee gave the name of the Norovirus genus in 2002. It was suggested that fifty percent of the occurrence of gastroenteritis in the United States is due to Norovirus. Also that about 90 percent of the outbreak of non-bacterial gastroenteritis in the world is due to Norovirus. It is mostly responsible for the outbreak of foodborne illnesses in the united states of America. Norovirus is very contagious. It can be easily transmitted in close places, e.g. school, nursing homes, day care centers, etc.

A person can be infected with Norovirus more than once. It has been said that a single person can be infected with Norovirus more than once in his or her lifetime.

 

                                   How long can stomach flu last?

 

If you have stomach flu, you can become well in 3 days. You may even become well without taking any medication. However, infants and elderly people who have this illness may experience a severe form of dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting. Signs and symptoms of stomach flu are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, increased body temperature, myalgia (muscular pain). They can begin between 12 hours after contacting the virus or 2 days after contact with the virus. If you are infected with the Norovirus, you can be passing the virus in your feces for up to two weeks after you are infected. The duration of excretion of feces containing the virus can be longer if you have an underline health problem. It can be as long as many weeks to many months.

What can a Doctor do for a stomach virus?

 

Stomach flu can be self-limiting just like a common cold can be self-limiting too (this means the disease can go on its own without any medical or surgical treatment). As mentioned before it may last for three days and relief the person without treatment. However, because of the risk of becoming dehydrated, people with Norovirus infection are to be taking fluids. If nausea and vomiting are severe, the person may need to take anti-emetics (drugs to prevent vomiting). There may need to give intravenous fluids to severely dehydrated people.

When should a child see a Doctor for stomach flu symptom?

 

 Just like in the case of any other disease, the earlier a symptom presents in a person, the better the person should go and see a Doctor. This is because of the effects of the sickness on the body of the person. Dehydration is one of the effects of Norovirus on the body. If dehydration is not taken care of early enough, it can become lethal. Dehydration can lead to dropping in blood pressure. It can affect the brain too Stomach flu is caused by Norovirus. It is good to visit the Doctor when a person starts to feel the signs and symptoms.

Remedies for Treating Stomach Flu

 

The primary goal in the treatment of stomach flu is alleviation of symptoms. The signs and symptoms experienced depend on the etiology of the disease. The most common remedies for treating stomach flu include:

  • Fluid Intake: Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are common signs and symptoms of stomach flu which leads to dehydration. The excess fluids lost due to dehydration needs to be replaced by fluid intake form clean water, sports drinks, Pedialyte, different teas containing ginger and peppermint. However, it is advisable by medical practitioners to avoid caffeinated beverages such as coffee or excessive alcohol intake which act as a diuretic.
  • .BRAT DIET: During stomach flu or gastroenteritis, feeding becomes difficult, and it is advisable to eat foods that are quickly absorbed by the stomach. The BRAT diet which consists of banana, rice, applesauce, and toast is the recommended diet for alleviating stomach flu signs and symptoms. The potassium found in banana helps in digestion and replacing lost electrolytes due to dehydration. Excessive loss of fluids other leads to weakness, and the carbohydrates and calories form rice and applesauce help in restoring the lost glucose and energy. White bread toasts are easily digested by the body and are recommended for stomach flu patient. The pectin present in apple makes digestion easier. Certain foods such as greasy foods, spicy foods, and dairy products should be avoided during stomach flu.
  • Acupuncture: it has been revealed by medical researchers that acupuncture helps in eliminating nausea especially when the p-6 pressure point is gently massaged.
  • Rest: The body feels tired and weak due to fluid and electrolyte depletion. Adequate rest is needed for healing form stomach flu because the body burns more energy while trying to actively fight the infection, whereas, the body utilizes lesser calories for combating infection during rest.
  • Medications: There are numerous over the counter drugs for alleviating the symptoms of stomach flu. Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen can be prescribed for treating fever and aches, whereas, anti-emetics such as metoclopramide can be used for treating nausea and vomiting.

Stomach flu also called gastroenteritis is a multifactorial disease that can be caused by different etiologies. It presents with different signs and symptoms depending on the causative organism.it can be treated with various medications and home remedies. If you experience any symptoms, contact your gastroenterologist near you.

 

References

De Marco R, Shankar S, Rosenbaum J, Efron D. A Case of the Stomach Flu. J Pediatric Child Health. 2018; 54(2):214-214. doi:10.1111/jpc.13828.

Cold F, Health E, Disease H et al. Is It a Stomach Flu or Influenza? WebMD. 2018. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/stomach-flu-not-influenza. Accessed May 20, 2018.

Charles Patrick Davis P. Stomach Flu Symptoms, Signs, Treat, How Long It Lasts & Contagious. MedicineNet. 2018. Available at: https://www.medicinenet.com/gastroenteritis_stomach_flu/article.htm. Accessed May 20, 2018.