Stomach flu, also known as gastroenteritis, is an umbrella term used for various intestinal infections that usually last a few days and can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever. The most common way people get the stomach flu is by not practicing good hand hygiene.
Washing your hands often and thoroughly is key for preventing this bug. Hand sanitizer will not kill certain germs that can lead to the stomach flu, including E. coli and norovirus. So using warm water and soap to wash your hands, especially after using the bathroom, is crucial for killing germs that can spread the highly contagious virus. Doctors recommend washing for at least 20 seconds.
You should also regularly clean surfaces around your home. Countertops, faucets, doorknobs and other hard surfaces are most important, since they are touched by many people every day. Using a disinfectant with bleach is best. And always make a point of washing your hands before you eat.
Lastly, avoid coming in contact with anyone who may have the virus. If you or someone in your family has the stomach flu, try as best as possible to limit their exposure to others. Don’t send someone with the stomach flu back to work or school until their symptoms have been gone for at least 24 hours. Even after that timeframe, they could still be contagious depending on what virus they had. Continue to practice good handwashing after symptoms subside.
There is no specific medical treatment for stomach flu. Antibiotics aren’t effective against viruses, and overusing them can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Symptoms are usually effectively controlled with home remedies.
Patients with the virus should drink water and other fluids to prevent dehydration. Also, avoid heavy foods like dairy products, fatty and highly seasoned foods that can aggravate the GI system. When you feel you can tolerate food, start with items that are easy to digest, such as bananas, toast, rice and chicken.
If you are unable to keep liquids down for 24 hours, have been vomiting for more than two days, or notice blood in your vomit or bowel movements, you should call your doctor and schedule an appointment. Otherwise, the best treatment is lots of fluids, a bland diet and rest.
Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.
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