No matter how healthy we are or how strong our immune system is, it is more than likely that each of us will contract a stomach virus at some point in our lives.
A stomach virus normally begins with discomfort or slight pain in the lower abdominal region. This can progress to sharp pains and cramping. Feelings of nausea are also common which may result in vomiting. The virus is also likely to cause diarrhea.
Vomiting bile and diarrhea are the body’s way of trying to expel the virus from the body. A slightly raised temperature may also accompany the other signs showing that the immune system has kicked in and is fighting the virus.
This disease (stomach flu) is very similar to infectious diarrhea (viral gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus or norovirus).
Once the above mentioned symptoms begin to show, the virus has probably been in the system for about 24 to 72 hours. The virus should automatically be expelled from the system in about 1 week so a visit to the doctor or medical treatment is usually not necessary. However, the illness can last up to a week so it is very important to stay hydrated during this time as the combination of vomiting, diarrhea and fever can cause dehydration.
Simply drink water constantly or use oral re-hydration solutions that will be available on the shelf at your local pharmacy. Medications that have binding properties can also minimize vomiting and diarrhea will aspirin or paracetamol can be used to lower a temperature and minimize pain.
Should the symptoms continue for longer than 1 week, it is recommended to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Blood in the stool or vomit are other signs that medical treatment should be sought. These are indications of a more serious condition has been contracted and that your body may be unlikely to resolve this on its own.
Infants, toddlers and young children exhibiting the above signs for longer than 48 to 72 hours should see a doctor. Dehydration and other problems can manifest easier in this group of people which can have longer lasting consequences.
Prevention is better than cure but when faced with the sheer magnitude of viruses that are constantly floating around us, prevention can be difficult. However, there are a few simple steps that can be taken to minimize the likelihood of a virus taking hold.
Washing your hands regularly, especially after using the toilet or before eating food is essential for viral diseases prevention. An antibacterial hand wash is recommended although this will only prevent stomach illnesses caused by bacterial agents and not viruses. Using hot water instead of cold can also help wash away any viruses that may be present on the skin.
Viruses can be airborne but more often than not, a stomach virus is transmitted through contact. Once again it is important to care your health by washing hands after spending time in public places.
It is important to stress the importance of seeking medical attention for stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea that continue for an elongated period of time. This could mean that a secondary infection has set in or that a more serious illness has been contracted.