Viral gastroenteritis is often mistakenly complained of as a stomach flu, likely because it causes diarrhea and vomiting cramps. But in fact, influenza viruses affects your respiratory system and not your stomach.
Viral gastroenteritis is caused by a mixed bag of viruses that inflame your stomach and small intestines. These viruses are contagious and can be spread via handling food without washing your hands, close contact sharing of personal use items or by eating and drinking contaminated consumables.
Children commonly become infected by putting their virus contaminated fingers or other objects into their mouths.
Many different viruses can cause you the discomfort of a stomach flu. Rotavirus and norovirus being the leading cause of viral gastroenteritis.
Rotavirus infected adults usually don’t develop symptoms, but can still be contagious. Rotaviral gastroenteritis typically wreaks its diarrhea havoc during the cooler months, and a vaccine to combat it’s severe symptoms is available.
There are many distinct strains of noroviruses, Norwalk virus being one. Norovirus outbreaks sweep through closely confined groups of folks. Sample situations are:
- cruise ships
- nursing homes
- child care facilities
And norovirus is more likely to cause symptoms in older children and adults.
Your stomach flu symptoms can last for a day up to as long as 10 days. And you can even remain contagious for a couple of weeks after feeling better, the norm being three days post recovery.
Also, you can be infected without having symptoms and still spread the infection. Norovirus or rotavirus viral gastroenteritis symptoms typically include some of the following:
- muscle ache
- clammy skin
- joint stiffness
- stomach pain
- watery diarrhea
- nausea & vomiting
- excessive sweating
- abdominal cramping
- unintentional weight loss
Sometimes vomiting blood might occur, but this symptom is very rare.
Viral diarrhea is not caused by a bacteria, such as salmonella and E. coli. Therefore, antibiotics do nothing for your virus causing cramps. Truth be told, there is no effective treatment for viral gastroenteritis.
Instead, stomach flu’s primary treatment is to prevent dehydration. Lost fluids and electrolytes need replacement. Juice, soda or water might help with the liquid aspect, but they don’t restore electrolytes.
CDC recommends using oral rehydration solution and start ingestion when diarrhea first occurs. Antidiarrheal medications are generally not recommended, as they tend to prolong your infection.
If you are healthy, you’ll likely recover without much fuss. Yet, viral gastroenteritis can be deadly for infants, older adults and those with compromised immune systems.
If you are taking diuretics, talk to your health care professional about this when your diarrhea and/or vomiting cramping symptoms first develop.
These steps may help you or a child feel more comfortable, prevent dehydration and relieve symptoms during a rotavirus or norovirus stomach flu battle:
- plenty of rest
- small, frequent sips of clear liquids during vomiting period
- do not eat for a few hours after commencement of symptoms
- oral rehydration solutions to replace fluids & lost electrolytes ~ Pedialyte
- avoid dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, apple juice, sugary, fatty, highly seasoned foods until full recovery
Gradually ease back into eating by reintroducing bland, easily digestible foods, such as:
- soda crackers
Stop eating if you feel your viral gastroenteritis caused nausea returning.