The Stomach Flu — What you should know

This week, in honor of gift buying, we are covering Our Favorite Gifts. This post could not be more out of place with this theme, but unfortunately it is timely. Kids and adults are dropping like flies, and it seems everyone has a nagging nausea that won’t go away.

– There is no such thing as the stomach flu, but everyone will know what you mean. Doctors call it gastroenteritis.

– Gastroenteritis  can be caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites, but the one we are seeing right now is viral and is spread the same way the cold virus can spread — person to person, or person to object to person. Norovirus and rotavirus are the most common viruses causing gastroenteritis.

– Prevention depends on hand washing, disinfecting surfaces in the home, and avoiding those known to have the virus. Kids should be instructed to avoid sharing food and drinks with other kids.

– How long are people contagious? An infected person can be contagious anywhere from 1-2 days before symptoms appear, and can remain contagious for up to two weeks after recovery. It’s easy to see why it spreads so widely. Children usually shed the virus longer than adults.

– Gastroenteritis is usually short-lived and self-limiting. Maintain a clear diet until vomiting stops and introduce solid foods slowly. You should feel better after a day or two.

When to worry about vomiting/diarrhea:

1. If you have reason to suspect your child has ingested something poisonous.

2. If the vomit or the diarrhea contains any blood.

3. If your child is complaining of pain, especially localized to one spot.

4. If your child has a fever lasting for more than three days or one that is unresponsive to antipyretics (anti-fever) medications.

5. If there are signs of dehydration. These include:
– markedly decreased or absent urination
– very dry mouth
– lethargy
– few or no tears
– headache
– sunken eyes

The other thing that should make you worry is … worry. Go with your parental gut. If you just don’t feel this is a normal stomach bug, talk to your doctor. If the symptoms are severe and prolonged, talk to your doctor. If you simply need someone to tell you it will be ok, talk to your doctor.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Doctor, mom of five and founder of Tips From Town.