Fever, diarrhea and vomiting, oh my!

Wednesday , July 21, 2010 - 3:19 PM

RN - 75th Medical Group

The stomach flu has hit us this season but with basic preventative care we can keep our children and ourselves healthy.

What is the stomach flu? According to the Centers for Disease Control, the stomach flu is viral gastroenteritis and is an infection caused by a variety of viruses often resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. Many different viruses can cause gastroenteritis, but your health care provider can determine if the diarrhea is caused by a virus or something else.

Symptoms you should look for are watery diarrhea and vomiting. You may also have a headache, fever and abdominal cramps (stomach ache). In general, symptoms begin one to two days following exposure to the virus and may last for as many as 10 days, depending on which virus caused the illness. Symptoms usually begin with vomiting for up to 24 hours and then diarrhea proceeds for around 7-10 days.

For most, viral gastroenteritis is not a serious illness. However, it is serious for persons who are unable to drink enough fluids to replace what they lose through vomiting and diarrhea. The most important treatment for viral gastroenteritis in children and adults is to stay hydrated. This treatment should begin at home, and your health care provider may give you specific instructions about what kinds of fluid to take.

The CDC recommends that families with infants and young children keep a supply of oral rehydration solution, or ORS, at home at all times, using the solution when diarrhea first occurs in a child. ORS is available at pharmacies without a prescription. Follow the written directions on the ORS package and use clean or boiled water. Medications, including antibiotics (which have no effect on viruses) and other treatments, should be avoided unless specifically recommended by your health care provider.

Prevention is the key to reducing your chance of getting infected. The No. 1 way to prevent any illness is through frequent hand washing, and prompt disinfection of contaminated surfaces with household chlorine bleach-based cleaners, and prompt washing of soiled articles of clothing.

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