Stomach flu symptoms start manifesting themselves a couple of hours or even a few days after the virus has entered the gastrointestinal tract in the individual. Stomach flu or gastroenteritis as it is also known as, is caused by viruses which enter the gastrointestinal tract and settle in the stomach and intestines and multiply in these organs.
The common viruses which cause stomach flu are as follows:
- Rotavirus which causes vomiting and diarrhea in infants and young children.
- Calicivirus which includes among others the Norovirus and Sapovirus. These are the main cause of gastroenteritis in adults.
- Astrovirus which causes stomach flu in children and in a milder way in adults.
- Adenovirus of which there is a wide variety and only two types of these cause gastroenteritis in children and adults.
Typical Stomach Flu symptoms:
- Diarrhea in the form of watery stools
- Muscle aches
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Low grade fever
- Excessive thirst
In normal or mild cases of stomach flu a patient may experience just some of these symptoms which clear up in a day or two and do not need any medication. The patient should be kept on a liquid diet and should avoid milk and dairy products, carbonated drinks, caffeine, alcohol and solid food.
Diarrhea is the main symptom of stomach flu. It occurs in the form of frequent watery stools in the course of the day. If the condition does not ease and if there are traces of blood in the stool then medical intervention should be sought.
A patient may experience nausea accompanied by and uneasiness in the stomach. There may be an urge to vomit. Most of the time, the stomach contents empty out through vomiting.
Abdominal cramps and ache are also symptoms of stomach flu. There may be general discomfort in the region of the abdomen accompanied by flatulence. These symptoms gradually ease in a day or two.
Headaches and muscle ache
Headaches and muscle ache can also occur during an attack of stomach flu. This can be accompanied by mild, low grade fever and chills. A patient may feel lethargic and fatigued and the best remedy for this is rest. Loose motions and vomiting can tire a person out and the body will need rest.
Vomiting and diarrhea
With frequent vomiting and diarrhea the patient may lose a lot of body fluids and there may be a tendency to dehydration. This is a matter of concern and should be treated with urgency. Sips of water or even sucking on ice pops would help while the patient experiences bouts of vomiting. If there is excessive loss of body fluid then some electrolyte replacement fluids should be given.
Medicine for diarrhea should be avoided as this will only prolong the illness and may have side effects. It is best to let the stomach flu run its course. The symptoms of stomach flu normally ease in two or three days.
If the symptoms of stomach flu do not ease in a couple of days and the patient still suffers from diarrhea and vomiting then medical intervention should be sought. Symptoms like blood in the stool, high fever and dehydration may be due to some other illness which could be diagnosed with laboratory tests.
Stomach flu and its symptoms can be prevented by maintaining hygiene. Eating utensils should not be shared with a person who is suffering from stomach flu. This infection is contagious and can be passed through contact with a patient. Hands should be washed with soap and warm water.
The symptoms of stomach flu like fever and body ache can be treated with medication if necessary, otherwise it is best to let the infection run its course.