Although it is commonly called stomach flu, gastroenteritis is not the same as influenza. Real flu or influenza affects your respiratory system, while gastroenteritis affects your intestines.
The main symptoms of viral gastroenteritis are:
- abdominal cramps and pain,
- muscle aches or a headache (occasionally),
- and fever.
Viral gastroenteritis symptoms may appear within 1-3 days after you are infected they usually last 1-2 days, but occasionally they may even persist for 10 days.
You can contract stomach flu when you eat or drink contaminated food or water, eat some shellfish (especially raw or undercooked oysters), or if you share utensils or food with someone infected.
The main viruses that can cause viral gastroenteritis are:
- Norovirus: in most cases, the virus is contracted from contaminated food or water, but person-to-person transmission also is possible.
- Rotavirus: this is the most common cause of stomach flu in children (most severe in young children). Adults infected with this virus may not have symptoms, but can still spread the illness.
There are some people who may be more susceptible to gastroenteritis. These are the main groups affected:
- young children (their immune system is not well developed),
- older adults (their immune systems tend to become less efficient later as they get older),
- and anyone with a weakened immune system (people whose immune system is compromised by HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy or another medical condition).
Also, each gastrointestinal virus has a season when it is most active. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you are more likely to have an infection by rotavirus or norovirus between October and April.
The main treatment for viral gastroenteritis is to prevent dehydration (as antibiotics, for example, do not help in these cases), so you should follow the next tips:
- let your stomach settle (stop eating and drinking for a few hours),
- eat ice chips and take small sips of water (you can also try clear soda, clear broths or noncaffeinated sports drinks),
- gradually begin to eat easy-to-digest foods (toast, gelatin, bananas, rice, and chicken) and stop eating if you feel sick again,
- avoid dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and fatty or highly seasoned foods,
- Avoid fruit juices they do not replace minerals and can increase diarrhea),
- get rest,
- and be cautious with medications because they can make your stomach more upset.
You may also consider over-the-counter oral rehydration solutions (OHS), as they contain a balanced mixture of water and salts that replenish fluids and electrolytes.
Here you have some home remedies for stomach flu (you can also see the food poisoning remedies, as these two conditions are closely related).
German chamomile is proved to be an effective anti-inflammatory, a nervine or smooth muscle relaxer, antimicrobial, mildly sedative and carminative (it helps with gas and bloating). Make a German chamomile tea and it will help you ease the symptoms of stomach flu.
There are many types of mint but all of the more common mints (peppermint, wintergreen, catnip, spearmint and lemon balm) may have a good result, as mint has antimicrobial activity against fungi and some bacteria. It is also considered antispasmodic, mildly sedative and carminative.
Drink a ginger tea or ginger ale made with ginger root or chew a piece of ginger root.
Acidic fruits are not normally recommended but used sparingly lemon juice can help kill bacteria that cause diarrhea. Add the lemon juice to a glass of water or add it to your herbal tea. If you prefer, you can also have 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice before meals.
Broths and soups are an excellent and nutritious way to replenish the loss of both salt and fluids. If you cannot drink broths because of nausea, add a tiny pinch of salt to your juice or tea.
- Boil the rice in the water until nearly soft.
- Strain the rice.
- Let the water cool down and drink a small cup every hour.
- You can also add a bit of honey and cinnamon.
- Leave off the cinnamon and add a pinch of powdered ginger.
If you can tolerate it, you can take it fresh (chopped in small pieces) or in tablet form.
Dried blueberries contain anthocyanosis, a substance thought to be lethal to E. Coli (a bacteria often linked to these infections).
It balances the inner ecosystem. Try combining bananas, yogurt, blueberries and honey in a blender as a smoothie.
To prevent the appearance of stomach flu, you should:
- wash your hands often (if necessary, use hand sanitizer)
- if someone in your household is sick, do not share utensils or towels,
- do not eat raw or undercooked foods,
- wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly
- take precautions to avoid contaminated water and food when traveling (avoid ice cubes and use bottled water),
- and there are two vaccines for rotavirus, so ask your doctor if you want to have your infant vaccinated (Generally, infants are vaccinated when they are two months old).