Stomach flu: symptoms, prevention and treatment

Stomach flu (gastroenteritis) is a collective name for gastrointestinal infections. A known cause of gastroenteritis is the Noro virus. The symptoms of stomach flu include abdominal cramps and diarrhea. With a stomach flu, dehydration is likely. Therefore, drink enough and be alert to symptoms such as low urine production and feeling very drowsy or confused.

  • What is stomach flu?
  • Symptoms of stomach flu
  • Stomach flu, how do you get it?
  • Stomach flu, how do you get rid of it?


What is stomach flu?

Gastrointestinal infections ( gastroenteritis ) are also commonly referred to as “stomach flu”. The complaints can last from twelve hours to three days. When most complaints have disappeared, people can still infect other people for two to three weeks.
The cause of gastroenteritis is often an infection with a virus or bacteria that has settled in the mucous membranes and causes inflammation of the lining of the stomach and intestines. In younger children the pathogen is often a so-called rotavirus or astrovirus, in older children and adults the cause is the so-called Noro virus .
Contamination with the pathogen often occurs due to poor hygiene (insufficient hand washing, contaminated drinking water, etc.) and often affects several members of groups that have close contact with each other, such as family members and school classes. Stomach flu is not a danger to most people, but the consequences for older people and young children can be serious.

Symptoms of stomach flu

The symptoms of stomach flu often occur very suddenly. Common symptoms of stomach flu include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cramps in the abdomen
  • Fever, often accompanied by headache
  • Diarrhea


Contact your doctor immediately if the abdominal pain lasts for more than four hours and is accompanied by one or more of the following complaints:

  • High fever
  • Sensitive abdomen
  • Blood in the stool
  • Blood in the urine
  • Little or no urine production
  • Shortness of breath
  • Looking pale
  • Feeling faint, drowsy or confused


Stomach flu, how do you get it?

In most cases, stomach flu is caused by viruses or bacteria that are in the body of an infected person and that can be transmitted to another person, usually through the mucous membranes. For example, bacteria and viruses can easily spread through moisture droplets released when coughing and sneezing. Contamination can occur directly and indirectly. In direct contamination, the pathogen is transmitted personally from person to person, for example through a kiss. Indirect contamination can occur when one eats contaminated food.

Stomach flu, how do you get rid of it?

What can you do yourself?

You can prevent stomach flu by observing hygiene:

  • Always wash your hands after using the toilet and before preparing food. Proper hand washing appears to remove 96% of the virus particles and therefore certainly helps to prevent stomach flu.
  • Store and prepare vegetables, fruit and meat properly.
  • Eat more so-called good bacteria (such as lactobacillus casei and lactobacillus bulgaricus), which are found in many types of yogurt and probiotic supplements .
  • Prevent cross-contamination during cooking: keep raw meat, poultry and fish away from ready-to-eat products.
  • Be particularly careful with oysters, heat them thoroughly so that all bacteria and viruses are killed.

Once you have complaints, it is very important to prevent dehydration . Therefore, make sure you drink enough, at least eight to ten glasses of water, broth, fruit juice or weak tea. Don’t drink coffee or smoke.

What can the doctor do?

In most cases, a stomach flu goes away on its own. If the complaints are very severe or last for a long time, it is wise to contact your doctor. They may ask you to collect some stool and take it with you so that it can be examined for the presence of an infection. If there is a bacterial stomach flu, the doctor can prescribe antibiotics.

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