Chances are, at some point in your life you’ve had gastroenteritis, commonly known as the “stomach bug.” The stomach bug is typically a virus that spreads easily through the population. You’ll recognize the symptoms of the stomach bug as an upset stomach (diarrhea, vomiting), headache, abdominal cramping and fever. The stomach bug is unpleasant, with symptoms often varying from person to person. Fortunately, a stomach bug can usually be prevented by following some very simple tips:
- Practice good hygiene: wash your hands, and don’t share food or drinks.
- Label your leftovers, and throw them out as soon as a week has passed.
- Clean surfaces thoroughly before and after food preparation.
- Keep meats separate from other foods in the refrigerator.
- Meat should be cooked to 160 degrees F. and maintained at 140 degrees F.
- If you do find you are experiencing a stomach bug, there are steps you can take to make your life less unpleasant as the virus works its way out of your digestive system. Similar to the advice provided above, tips to stop a virus in its tracks are relatively straightforward. It’s even likely that you’ve heard of these remedies before, but perhaps you haven’t followed through properly and that’s why your symptoms keep returning.
To stop a stomach bug in its tracks, patients should:
- Hydrate, but your hydration needs to happen a certain way. After diarrhea and vomiting, we all can become dehydrated – this makes us feel even worse. The key to proper hydration during a stomach bug is to take it slow.
- After vomiting, wait at least half an hour before hydrating. Take small, slow sips of water, ginger ale, weak ginger tea, diluted apple juice or clear soup.
- When you feel up to eating, eat small meals slowly. Your food choices during this time should be very bland so as not to further upset your stomach. Think toast, pasta (no sauce), bread (no butter), eggs, rice and fruit.
- Avoid food that is heavy or has strong flavors – anything that is greasy, spicy, or has caffeine or alcohol.
- Keep up the bland fruit/drink routine for 2-3 days after your symptoms subside in order to avoid a relapse.
- Make sure that you are getting enough rest.
The stomach bug is something we all encounter periodically, but in certain situations it is necessary to contact your doctor, such as if there is blood in your stool, if your fever is higher than 101 degrees F. for more than 24 hours, if your vomiting and diarrhea are persistent, or if there are signs of dehydration.