Contracting the stomach flu is no picnic. What you may not know is that the stomach flu is actually the result of a virus, not a bacteria infection or even close to the virus that causes influenza. Viral gastroenteritis aka a stomach virus is what this ailment should really be called.
Most people know when they get a stomach virus; diarrhea is the main activity for a day or two and with some, there is a little vomiting thrown in for good measure. What happens during a stomach virus is that the cells along the small intestinal lining becomes damaged and leaks fluid which causes diarrhea with a watery consistency.
The rotavirus is the leader of viruses that can cause watery stools in children under five. Children infected with the rotavirus are often sick for anywhere from two to seven days and can experience fever and stomach pain and cramping. Adults can also become infected but the symptoms are generally milder. There are also three other viruses that can cause stomach flu:
- Calicivirus is actually a group of viruses with the norovirus being the most likely culprit of stomach flu in people of all age ranges. In addition to the diarrhea and vomiting, some sufferers also experience headaches, muscle pain and fatigue. It takes up to three after exposure to start showing symptoms.
- Adenovirus is particularly active in young toddlers age 2 and under. There are about 50 different strains of this virus but only one causes the vomiting and diarrhea.
- Astrovirus is often found in those with weaker immune systems like the elderly, infants and young children. This virus likes the winter time and most people will show symptoms in about three days after exposure.
Passing along the Stomach Virus
This is one virus that is particularly contagious. Just touching objects contaminated with the virus is enough to expose someone to it. Sharing food, drink, utensils or buying food prepared by someone with the virus can cause stomach virus symptoms within a few days.
People who do not adequately wash their hands after using the bathroom are more than likely to pass along the virus. Eating food grown in viral infected soil or in contaminated waters can also cause the stomach flu. Viruses live virtually everywhere.
Some people do not get a stomach virus but can still pass along the infection. That explains why some people but not others get sick in classroom settings, nursing homes, households, day care settings and more.
Treatment of the Stomach Virus
Unfortunately, there are no cures for viruses so you basically have to let the stomach virus run its course. You can treat the symptoms to alleviate the intensity of them. The biggest problem is dehydration. If you or a loved one has the stomach flu, you must ensure that fluids are consumed often. Mild juices, water and broth are great at keeping your fluid levels up.
Children are most susceptible to dehydration and should consume electrolyte replacement drinks to help. In addition, until the stomach is feeling better and stools become more solid, both children and adults should avoid dairy products and alcohol and caffeine. These all tend to make the stomach more upset.
You can prevent the contraction of a stomach virus by always washing your hands before meals and after changing diapers. In addition, you should avoid any areas that may not have adequate water supply or insufficient sanitary waste management.