Stomach flu – Causes, symptoms, and remedies Health

Stomach flu – Causes, symptoms, and remedies

Stomach flu, or viral gastroenteritis, refers to an infection of the gastrointestinal system. A viral or bacterial infection is typically its underlying cause. The disease may spread through contact with someone infected with the virus or food or water contamination. Rotavirus and norovirus are the primary viruses causing this infection. Norovirus, the most common cause of stomach flu, accounts for 19-21 million cases of gastroenteritis in the country each year.

Causes of stomach flu

  • Water contamination
    Drinking or recreational water may get contaminated with norovirus, typically due to the leakage of a septic tank in a well or if human waste or vomit is expelled into the water source. Sometimes, the virus may also spread if water is not treated adequately with substances like chlorine.
  • Food contamination
    Food prepared using contaminated water can cause the spread of stomach flu. Moreover, the virus may spread if a person already infected with it touches the food prepared for multiple people. One may also contract viral gastroenteritis by having food placed on surfaces infected with norovirus. Further, fruits, vegetables, or grains grown with contaminated water can also trigger stomach flu.
  • Contact with persons infected with rotavirus or norovirus
    Direct contact with persons infected with either of these viruses can also lead to the contraction of viral gastroenteritis. For instance, one may develop stomach flu by sharing utensils with infected persons or having food prepared or served by them.
  • Not following hand hygiene practices
    Not washing one’s hands after using the washroom or after touching external surfaces can cause one to get infected with norovirus, leading to stomach flu.

Signs and symptoms

  • Diarrhea
    Individuals with stomach flu may experience watery diarrhea, which may last anywhere between two days and two weeks. However, it typically does not cause blood in one’s stool, which could be the symptom of a more severe infection.
  • Nausea
    Nausea may occur two to three days after one is infected with norovirus or rotavirus and may last up to two weeks.
  • Fever
    Since the body fights a stomach infection, a person with stomach flu may contract low-grade fever, together with chills and sweating.
  • Headaches
    Individuals with viral gastroenteritis may become highly dehydrated, and as a result, suffer from headaches and dizziness.
  • Abdominal pain
    Stomach flu may cause severe abdominal pain and discomfort as a result of stomach infection.

Alongside a systematic treatment course suggested by one’s doctor, one should follow certain home remedies to ensure a speedy recovery.

  • Have plenty of healthy fluids
    Stomach flu can cause severe dehydration, which can lead to headaches and fatigue and aggravate the infection’s symptoms. Thus, persons with this condition should ensure that they are hydrated. Besides having the daily recommended water intake of 3.7 liters and 2.7 liters for men and women, respectively, one should incorporate healthy fluids into one’s meals. Fluids like chicken soup, broth, smoothies, and fresh fruit juices can help hydrate the body and replenish it with electrolytes and nutrients.
  • Add soft foods to one’s meals
    Often, persons with stomach flu may not have the appetite for full-course meals. In such cases, it is a good idea to have soft foods such as mashed potatoes, boiled white rice, instant oats, and plain cereals with a pinch of salt to help manage stomach flu symptoms.
  • Avoid certain types of foods
    Some types of foods should be avoided until one recovers completely. For example, caffeinated beverages, dairy products, processed foods, deep-fried foods, and foods high in spices are a no-no for those recovering from stomach flu.
  • Avoid raw foods
    Raw foods, including salads and sushi, may contain salmonella, E. coli, and other bacteria, which may severely aggravate stomach flu symptoms. Thus, it is best to avoid raw foods, particularly if they are from restaurants or places outside of one’s home.

Complete recovery from stomach flu may take up to a few weeks. During this time, one should ensure adequate rest and be aware of all the factors that may worsen one’s condition. Staying hydrated and having simple, home-cooked food can help boost immunity and fight the infection.