The range of infections referred to as “stomach flu” isn’t the flu at all. Common gastrointestinal symptoms are actually caused by:
• Bacteria, including foodborne pathogens
Norovirus is responsible for the greatest number of viral cases, although rotavirus is a more common gastrointestinal infection in children. Foodborne illnesses, also called food poisoning, may be caused by bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella, although many other pathogens have been found circulating in the food supply.
Viral gastrointestinal diseases are spread through contact, so regular hand washing can help prevent infection. To avoid foodborne pathogens, practice proper food preparation techniques and kitchen sanitation practices when handling raw meat and eggs.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
Stomach infection symptoms are the result of inflammation or irritation of the stomach and intestinal lining caused by the underlying illness. Symptoms vary from one condition to another and may include:
To diagnose a gastrointestinal disease, your doctor will do a symptom review and give you a physical exam. He or she may also take a stool culture or perform an endoscopy to determine the exact cause of your symptoms.
Stomach Infection Treatment
In serious cases of bacterial gastroenteritis, antibiotics may be prescribed to fight the infection. Other gastrointestinal diseases generally run their course without medical intervention. Until symptoms resolve, prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance by drinking plenty of fluids, including natural electrolyte balancers such as coconut water. Follow a bland diet that emphasizes bananas, rice, applesauce and toast (BRAT) to avoid stressing the digestive system. Over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications may impede the body’s ability to clear the infection and should only be used as a last resort.
Serious cases of stomach infection may cause:
• Dry skin or dry mouth associated with dehydration
• Bloody stools or blood in vomit
• High fever
• Vomiting that persists for more than two days
If any of these symptoms develop or your gastrointestinal infection doesn’t resolve on its own, head to your local urgent care center for immediate treatment.