Trick or Treat: The Dreaded Stomach Virus

October… Bring on the pumpkins, crisp air, and the state fair. You know what else seems to come to town along with the state fair? Gastroenteritis. I’m not sure if it can be blamed on the food, the large concentration of youths who are preoccupied with things other than sanitation, the amount of animal feces at the petting zoo, or the onset of the fall season. At any rate, it doesn’t matter why it shows up; it only matters that you survive.


What causes the “stomach virus”?

It is more accurately termed gastroenteritis, which is inflammation or infection of the gastrointestinal tract. There are many viruses that can cause it and they can be contracted from contaminated food, contaminated water, or contact with someone who is sick. Symptoms can appear anywhere from 1-3 days after exposure.

What are the symptoms of the stomach virus?

Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever, chills, and fatigue. Symptoms can last 6 hours to 2 days, while diarrhea can last up to 10 days.

Is it the same as the stomach flu?

Yes, the stomach virus and the stomach flu are common terms for gastroenteritis.

How do I treat the stomach virus?

The only thing available is supportive care. We do not have any cures. There is a vaccine for rotovirus, which is one virus that causes gastroenteritis.

Drink plenty of fluids. Make sure that you don’t get dehydrated. Try do drink some fluids that have electrolytes in them, such as gatorade or powerade. If you do feel like eating, stick to a bland diet (toast, rice, bananas. apple sauce). Avoid dairy and greasy or spicy foods.

If your nausea and vomiting are severe, you can call your physician for a medication for nausea.

How do you know it is a virus or food poisoning?

Food poisoning can occur very quickly after after eating contaminated food, usually between 2-6 hours. It can be caused by viruses, parasites, or bacteria. Symptoms and signs that would lead you to believe food poisoning over stomach virus are: generalized fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, high fever, sweating. also others that ate the same food will likely become ill. In severe cases of food poisoning, there can be blood in the vomit or stool, dehydration, or even shock.

While food poisoning tends to be more severe, it usually does not last as long as the stomach virus.

How long is someone contagious after recovering from the stomach virus?

That is a tricky question. Each virus is different, but you can be contagious up to two weeks after your symptoms resolve. To reduce the risk of passing it to others, please wait until you are fever and symptoms free for 24 hours before returning to work or school.

What can I do if I came into contact with someone who developed the stomach virus?

Wash your hands. Wipe down any surfaces they came into contact with. Pray fervently.

How can I protect myself if I am caring for someone with the stomach virus?

Again, wash your hands with soap and water! Lysol the heck out of their bathroom. Wash their sheets. Stay away if possible.

At what point would I need to go to the hospital?

If you become very weak and dehydrated, it might be in your best interest to go to the hospital to receive IV fluids. Symptoms of dehydration: low blood pressure, decreased urine output, dizziness when standing, “passing out” or “blacking out”, excessive thirst, dry mouth.

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