Stomach flu or gastroenteritis is a common disease which accounts for a good number of the emergency room visits to our facility here at Bellaire emergency room. A lot of people reporting stomach flu confuse it with just a normal stomachache and don’t normally know how they got the infection.
Because of the recent rise in the number of stomach flu that have been reported to our emergency room, we thought it wise to address the disease’s cause, symptoms, prevention measures and when it is right to report stomach flu to the emergency room. Understanding these things will help you differentiate stomach flu from the other related infections and help you seek medical care as soon as possible when you are affected. So, what is stomach flu?
Stomach flu or gastroenteritis is the inflammation of the various parts of the gastrointestinal tract caused by viral infections. The Norovirus belongs to a family of viruses that spreads very quickly and this makes stomach flu very contagious. In the U.S states, the stomach flu is estimated to affect more than 10o million people per year but luckily only 2% of these 100million people require hospitalization.
A lot of people confuse food poisoning with stomach flu. Whereas stomach flu is caused by a virus, food poisoning is caused by ingesting contaminated foods. Just like stomach flu though, food poisoning cases spread especially if people share the food and it is therefore very easy for one to confuse it with stomach flu.
Symptoms of stomach flu
Here are the most common signs and symptoms that are indicative of stomach flu;
The primary sign and symptom of stomach flu is diarrhea. If you start experiencing non-bloody diarrhea which keeps getting worse by day, you should get medical help as soon as possible as this is indicative of potential stomach flu.
Nausea and vomiting
The other common symptom of stomach flu that accompanies diarrhea is sickening nausea and occasional vomiting. Some people complain of abdominal cramping when vomiting but it is not a common symptom in everyone. The occasional vomiting is very helpful when it comes to distinguishing food poisoning from stomach flu because in food poisoning, the vomiting is consistent.
Mild fever and chills
The stomach flu will also lead to a mild fever accompanied by chills and some sweating. Fever or a raise in the body temperature, is the body’s way of reporting that there is something wrong in the system and in the case of stomach flu, the body temperature is about 37.78 degrees Celsius.
Some people complain of severe headache when suffering from stomach flu. The headaches are caused by the severe dehydration that comes from excessive loss of water through vomiting and severe diarrhea. The symptom is however not common in all patients.
In cases where the gastrointestinal inflammation is caused by a bacteria, then the stool will be stained with blood resulting from hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. Presence of blood or lack of thereof, should help you distinguish viral gastrointestinal infections from bacterial gastrointestinal infections.
The symptoms of stomach flu last anything from 2 days to 5 days.
How is the stomach flu spread?
The most common way through which stomach flu is spread is by direct contact with fecal matter of an infected individual. The individual could be an adult or an infant. The other way is through indirect contact with fecal matter where you touch a surface that is contaminated and then touching your mouth or touching food.
Is stomach flu deadly?
A lot of the forms of stomach flu that are experienced in America are relatively harmless and will go away on their own. As earlier on mentioned, of more than 100 million people that interact with the infection, only about 2% require treatment. Majority of the people’s immunities are able to counter the viral infection and the gastroenteritis will go away on its own.
When should you go to the emergency room for stomach flu?
Although stomach flu is relative harmless, prolonged symptoms of the infection should prompt you to visit the emergency room as soon as possible. If the symptoms are severe and they last anything more than 3 days, you should seek urgent medical care for treatment.
Stomach flu is treatable and will heal in no time. Using medication like promethazine, prochloperazine and Zofran, physicians are able to suppress the symptoms like vomiting and severe diarrhea and the stomach flu will eventually go away.
Here at Bellaire Emergency Room, we receive numerous cases of stomach flu every year and know all too well how to treat the infections. If you are in Bellaire, Texas and are suspecting that you have contracted the infection, give us a call or visit our emergency room and we will give you the relevant treatment.
We offer high quality treatment not just for stomach flu but other medical emergencies as well. Give us a call or visit our facility in Bellaire for more information on our services.