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Acute Gastroenteritis: The Dreaded “Stomach Flu”
Anyone who has ever caught a gastrointestinal (GI) virus knows just how uncomfortable it can be. It is an infection characterized by nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (greater than 3 episodes/day) usually associated with a general sense of digestive unease and discomfort. Acute gastroenteritis can develop quickly and last anywhere from overnight to up to 10 days in more severe cases. Acute gastroenteritis is common, resulting in over 1.5 million primary care visits and 220,000 hospital admissions for children annually in the United States.
While no one is immune to the Viral Gastroenteritis, the good news is that proper treatment can help you get back on your feet and on the road to recovery.
What is Acute Gastroenteritis?
Acute gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the lining of the intestines, which can be caused by viruses, bacteria or parasites. The vast majority of cases of acute gastroenteritis are caused by viruses, with 685 million cases worldwide attributed annually to norovirus illnesses. It is sometimes referred to as the “stomach flu” by the lay public because of how suddenly symptoms can develop, however, gastroenteritis does not affect the respiratory tract and is actually not a form of the flu. As with other viruses, viral gastroenteritis can be contracted simply by coming into contact with a person who is or has recently been sick, as well as ingesting contaminated liquids or food. Viral gastroenteritis has pronounced peaks in the winter and spring.
What are the Symptoms of Acute Gastroenteritis?
Though symptoms of acute gastroenteritis can vary from one person to another, a hallmark of the illness is a sudden and sometimes severe onset. Symptoms may include:
- Upset stomach
- Abdominal cramping
- Headache or muscle aches
In more severe cases of acute gastroenteritis, symptoms may include:
- Prolonged fever of 101°F or higher
- Difficulty swallowing
- Severe headache
- Severe diarrhea (leading to dehydration)
- Persistent vomiting (leading to dehydration)
- Difficulty breathing
If you or a family member experience any combination of these severe symptoms, medical attention should be sought immediately.
Diagnosing and Treating Acute Gastroenteritis?
The most common method for treating acute gastroenteritis is via rest and rehydration with sports drinks and broth (Pedialyte for young children). But oral rehydration can be challenging for those suffering from extreme nausea. A treating provider will perform an examination while also asking questions about your symptoms, including any associated recent activities. Diet guidelines may be given, such as following a BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apple sauce, and toast) for a period of time.
Certain medications to help control nausea may be prescribed in some cases, both for comfort and to allow for proper rehydration. In cases where fluids cannot be kept down, IV rehydration may be considered.
Visit ConvenientMD to Get Treated for Acute Gastroenteritis
While acute gastroenteritis is relatively common and typically self-limiting, the risk of dehydration can be serious—particularly for children and the elderly. At ConvenientMD, we regularly treat acute gastroenteritis (including cases caused by norovirus) and can help ensure you or an affected family member are taking the right steps toward making a quick recovery.
Dealing with the stomach flu? Stop into any ConvenientMD location today to get treated. Just walk right in—you don’t ever need to make an appointment!