Admit it. When friends say the stomach bug is in their households, we wish them well then run for our lives.
Everyone dreads the uncomfortable and, let’s face it, undignified symptoms, including vomiting and diarrhea that are the hallmarks of viruses such as the infamous norovirus.
The bad news is we’ve been hearing from a lot of our Timonium neighbors that it’s going around. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that this year’s norovirus is a nasty new strain called GII.4 Sydney (first detected in Australia).
The good news is that viruses causing gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) are typically fast-moving, so the suffering shouldn’t last more than a day or two.
Commonly miscalled the “stomach flu,” viruses, such as the norovirus, that cause gastroenteritis are not flu-related (influenza). The flu shot does NOT protect against norovirus. Nor does the virus respond to antibiotics. These highly contagious germs are spread person to person, through surfaces and through food contaminated by a handler with the virus—one of the reasons for those hand-washing signs in restaurant bathrooms. The best prevention is to wash hands frequently, disinfect surfaces and launder soiled garments promptly.
If you do get the stomach bug, listen to your body. Don’t try to eat solids until the vomiting and diarrhea have subsided. Grab your bucket and ride it out in bed or on the couch near the bathroom, with as much rest and fluids as you can get. The greatest danger with these illnesses is dehydration. It’s best to replace fluids and electrolytes with oral rehydration products such as Pedialyte, but whatever fluids you can keep down are better than nothing.
Signs of dehydration include:
- Infrequent or thick, dark urination
- Dry tongue or mouth
- Lack of tears
If you suspect dehydration in yourself or someone in your care, visit a
medical professional. An IV to replace fluids may be necessary. Also see a
medical professional if there is:
- Blood in the stool
- Vomiting for more than two days
- Fever higher than 101 degrees
These symptoms could indicate a more serious condition.