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What Is Stomach Flu and How to Treat It?

May 10, 2024

Urgent Care

What Is Stomach Flu and How to Treat It?

Have you ever experienced cramps, vomiting, and nausea all at once? You might have the stomach flu, also known as viral gastroenteritis. This common yet disruptive illness can bring even the toughest among us to our knees, with symptoms that seemingly appear out of nowhere and leave us scrambling for relief. However, despite its misleading name, stomach flu isn't caused by the influenza virus. Instead, it's typically the result of various viral infections that target the gastrointestinal tract, causing unpleasant symptoms that can turn even the simplest tasks into Herculean feats. 

Continue reading to learn about the common symptoms and causes of the stomach flu, along with helpful tips for managing the illness and preventing its spread.

Understanding Stomach Flu

Stomach flu, or viral gastroenteritis, refers to inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused by viruses. Unlike influenza, which affects the respiratory system, viral gastroenteritis primarily targets the gastrointestinal tract. The most common viruses responsible for stomach flu include norovirus, rotavirus, and adenovirus. These viruses are highly contagious and can spread through contaminated food, water, or contact with infected individuals.

Why Is Viral Gastroenteritis Called "Stomach Flu?"

The term "stomach flu" is a misnomer, as the influenza virus does not cause the illness. However, it shares some symptoms with the flu, such as nausea and vomiting, and causes diarrhea in all age groups worldwide. This similarity in symptoms often leads to confusion and the misconception that the two illnesses are related. In reality, stomach flu is caused by different viruses, primarily affecting the gastrointestinal system.

What are Stomach Flu Symptoms?

Stomach flu symptoms typically manifest suddenly and can vary in severity. Common symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea (may be watery or bloody)
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever (may be mild or high)
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue

These symptoms can range from mild to severe and may last a few days to a week, depending on the individual's immune system and the specific virus causing the infection.

What Causes Stomach Flu?

Several viruses, including norovirus, rotavirus, adenovirus, and astrovirus, primarily cause stomach flu. These viruses are highly contagious and can be transmitted through:

  • Close contact with an infected person
  • Consumption of contaminated food or water
  • Touching contaminated surfaces and then touching the mouth, nose, or eyes

How to Treat Stomach Flu?

Treatment for stomach flu is mainly supportive and focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing dehydration. This may include:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids, such as water, electrolyte solutions, clear broths, or oral rehydration solutions
  • Resting and avoiding strenuous activities
  • Over-the-counter medications to relieve symptoms such as fever, headache, and abdominal pain (Note: Consult a healthcare provider before giving any medications to children)
  • Avoiding certain foods such as dairy, caffeine, and fatty or spicy foods that may exacerbate symptoms
  • If vomiting is severe or persistent, intravenous fluids may be necessary to prevent dehydration.

When Should You Call a Healthcare Provider?

While most cases of stomach flu can be managed at home, there are certain circumstances where you should seek medical attention:

  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea that leads to dehydration (signs of dehydration include dry mouth, decreased urine output, dizziness, and rapid heartbeat)
  • High fever (above 102°F or 38.9°C)
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • Signs of dehydration in infants, young children, or older adults
  • Symptoms that worsen or do not improve within a few days

Fast and Convenient Stomach Flu Treatment at MI Express Urgent Care

If you're experiencing stomach flu discomfort and seeking relief, look no further than MI Express Urgent Care in Canton or Ann Arbor, MI. Our team of experienced urgent care professionals is committed to delivering top-quality care tailored to alleviate stomach flu symptoms effectively. From addressing the underlying causes to ensuring comprehensive relief, we're here to help you feel better fast. Contact us today to learn more about our specialized services for stomach flu treatment.

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