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Stomach flu is very common, yet often is misunderstood. “Stomach flu” is a general term for gastroenteritis and isn’t related to influenza or flu, which primarily affects the respiratory system.
Stomach flu typically is caused by viruses such as norovirus, rotavirus and other viruses that affect your gastrointestinal system. Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach or intestines often caused by the norovirus.
Often called the “24-hour flu,” symptoms typically resolve within a few days for most people. If you are infected, you still can spread the virus for a few days after your symptoms go away. Those who are older and people with weakened immune systems may experience more severe cases.
Stomach flu can cause vomiting or diarrhea several times a day and lead to dehydration. Young children and older people are particularly susceptible to dehydration. A dehydrated child may cry with few or no tears and be especially fussy and sleepy. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency.
Norovirus infection typically causes gastroenteritis. Stomach flu is highly contagious, especially in the winter months and around holidays when people are inside and can spread germs through contaminated food, water and surfaces.
Common symptoms of stomach flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include:
Other symptoms such as fever, headache and muscle aches also can accompany norovirus infection.
Keep in mind, stomach flu symptoms are similar to those caused by other infections such as food poisoning, bacterial infection and certain medications.
Norton Now includes same-day care options so you can get the care you need, when you need it and where you need it. Norton Community Medical Associates primary care offices are located across the Louisville and Southern Indiana area. Save your spot in line at a Norton Immediate Care Center or visit a Norton Prompt Care clinic for treatment of minor injuries or illnesses.
Use Norton eCare video visits or just answer a few questions online from anywhere in Kentucky or Indiana for care without coming into the office. Your provider can order drive-thru lab testing for you at Norton Healthcare Express Services if it’s needed.
Viral gastroenteritis usually runs a limited course and resolves on its own without professional or medical treatment. Home remedies include staying hydrated to replace liquids lost from vomiting and diarrhea. Drink water, clear sports drinks, clear sodas and clear broth to stay hydrated. Adults can use over-the-counter anti-nausea medicines and pain relievers. Check with your child’s pediatrician before giving any medications to young children.
If you or someone in your care is experiencing these symptoms, seek medical care immediately:
Dehydration in children can happen quickly. Keep a close watch for signs which include dry mouth, dry skin, thirst, and diapers that show little to no urine.
Currently, there’s not a vaccination for norovirus illness. However, you can help prevent a norovirus outbreak and transmission by following these steps:
To reduce the risk of contracting stomach flu, it’s important to practice good hygiene, such as frequent hand-washing, and to take precautions in settings where these viruses can spread easily, such as crowded or closed environments.
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