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Monday, July 11, 2011

How to Identify Symptoms of a Stomach Virus - Knol Reblogged

Source Knol: How to Identify Symptoms of a Stomach Virus

by eHowKnol, The eHow database is the world's most popular place to find clear instructions on how to do just about everything. at Demand Media

A stomach virus is also known as the stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis) and can affect people of all ages. It is a temporary health condition caused by an infection; the virus typically causes severe cramping and pain, but is commonly mistaken for the regular flu (influenza). A stomach virus is commonly caused by parasites such as cryptosporidium and giardia, as well as bacteria such as E.coli, Shigella and Salmonella.

Common Symptoms of a Stomach Virus

The most common symptoms of a stomach virus include:

* Watery diarrhea
* Extreme abdominal discomfort
* Vomiting
* Headache
* Ongoing fever
* Chills
* Excessive thirst
* Severe weakness
* Lethargy and fatigue
* Dizziness

The symptoms of a stomach flu typically occur within 4 to 48 hours of eating the contaminated food or being exposed to the bacteria. The symptoms can last for 2 – 4 days, but typically do not extend for longer than 10 days.

Common Causes of a Stomach Virus

Any type of infection that enters the gastrointestinal tract can trigger the spread of a stomach virus, and cause irritation or inflammation in the stomach or intestines. The virus may be caused by:

* Eating spoiled food
* Drinking contaminated water
* Inhaling or ingesting bacteria
* Having an allergic reaction to certain types of food
* Lactose intolerance
* Gluten intolerance

The most common types of viruses that cause stomach flu include:

* Caliciviruses – a virus that typically occurs between October and April, and results in diarrhea, vomiting and fatigue. The symptoms typically appear within 1-3 days of exposure to the contaminated foods or fluids, but most people can recover within 7 days.
* Adenovirus – a common ‘infant’ stomach virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. This type of virus can occur any time of year and can be especially dangerous for infants with weak immune systems.
* Rotavirus – a virus that typically occurs in children who are 3 – 15 months old; this virus causes fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain and typically occurs between November and April.
* Astrovirus – a common type of stomach virus that occurs during the winter months. This one typically triggers vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and abdominal discomfort.

Is It a Stomach Virus or the Flu?

Since many of the symptoms of a stomach virus are similar to those of influenza, it can be difficult to diagnose the problem. The average flu is a viral infection that begins with a high fever and congestion, and is often accompanied by fatigue. However, the flu cannot be treated with an antibiotic that is necessary to treat the stomach virus because it is not a bacterial infection.

In most cases, people suffering from the stomach flu will experience extreme dehydration, headaches and diarrhea. Overall, they will experience many of the common symptoms of the flu but also a number of digestive problems and gastrointestinal pain.

Recovering from a Stomach Virus

There is no specific treatment for recovering from a stomach virus. Sufferers must eat bland food, drink plenty of water and get enough rest to allow the body to recover naturally. Antibiotics are not very effective in treating viruses, because once the bacteria has reached the intestinal tract, it can be difficult for the body to absorb any type of medication.

The best strategy for recovering from the virus involves drinking clear liquids and eating easily-digestible foods. Oral rehydration solutions that contain minerals and salts such as potassium may be especially beneficial for young children and the elderly.

Individuals who are taking prescription medications may need to stop taking certain types of drugs until the symptoms disappear. Frequent episodes of vomiting and diarrhea can lead to malabsorption, making most medications ineffective and increasing the chances of toxicity.

Making an appointment with the doctor is recommended at the onset of a stomach virus, or if the symptoms do not disappear within 7-10 days. Extreme cases can become difficult to manage without oral rehydration solutions and supplements, and a doctor may be able to recommend certain foods and supplements for those who are not recovering from the stomach virus in an appropriate period of time.

Foods to Eat If You Have a Stomach Virus

Since the stomach will become especially sensitive to certain types of food and fluids after the initial stages of symptoms have settled down, the sufferer will need to drink extra fluids and eat a simple, easily-digestible diet. A bland diet comprised of simple carbohydrates can help the person with the stomach flu get the energy they need to recover and restore their body to good health. Foods that will not irritate the stomach lining or trigger a gastrointestinal reaction include:

* Dry toast
* Bananas
* Applesauce
* Cooked rice
* Puffed rice with lactose-free milk
* Soda crackers
* Boiled and mashed fruit
* Boiled and mashed vegetables

It’s also important to reduce the risk of extreme dehydration; drinking fresh water and flat, caffeine-free soda can help replenish the body with lost fluids and increase the chances of recovery.

Ways to Prevent a Stomach Virus

Eating properly-cooked food and making sure that hands are washed and cleaned thoroughly before handling fresh food are essential for preventing food borne illnesses. People who have a sensitive stomach should also avoid uncooked fish products and undercooked meats, as these may contain a significant amount of bacteria that can trigger the stomach virus.

Water-borne parasites are often found in third world countries, so anyone traveling to these areas should avoid drinking tap water and plan ahead to have a bottled water supply.

Any allergic reactions to seafood, shellfish, peanuts or even wheat products should be addressed by a doctor so that a healthy meal plan that does not contain these foods, or derivatives of these foods, can be arranged.

Exercising good hygiene is another way to protect yourself from a stomach virus. Washing hands thoroughly after going to the bathroom, keeping the nails clean and trim, and maintaining clean silverware and serving plates are simple ways to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading a stomach virus.

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