Gastro (Stomach Flu): Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention
Gastroenteritis, or as we often call it, Gastro, is a common virus everyone will experience at least once in their lifetime. Gastroenteritis is an inflammation in the stomach affecting small and large intestines. This condition can lead to acute infectious syndrome. It’s usually caused by microorganisms that have been ingested by contaminated food or water.
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Apart from contaminated food or drink, gastroenteritis can also be caused by ingested harmful chemical toxins or drugs. Microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites result in gastroenteritis by secreting toxins that stimulate excessive water and electrolyte loss. This process can cause diarrhea.
Symptoms of Gastro
The symptoms of this disease can occur immediately or within 24 hours of contaminated food or drink being digested by the body. If you feel any of the below symptoms, it’s best to seek medical attention, so you know how to manage and treat them. Symptoms of gastro include:
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Cold sweat
- Abdominal cramps
- Pus or blood in stool – in some cases
- Body aches
Causes of Gastro
Gastro can be caused by food and water contamination, poor personal hygiene practices, contact with someone who has gastro or other viruses. Anyone at any age can contract the virus. The main types are rotavirus, adenovirus, and norovirus.
Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhoea in infants and children around the world. Norovirus is the most common cause of severe gastroenteritis and food contamination illnesses. Bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella can also trigger the stomach flu. Although not as common as norovirus.
In terms of bacterial causes that lead to gastro, Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria are the most common bacterial causes. They are commonly spread by undercooked or spoilt poultry as well as eggs. Salmonella is also spread through contact with pet reptiles or live poultry.
How to Prevent Gastro
To prevent yourself from contracting gastro, or potentially risking the people around you from contracting it, these simple practices will keep you safe:
1. Washing your hands
Wash hands after using the restroom, coming in contact with things that are dirty or used by other people as well as cleaning them before and after meals. You can do this by using hot soapy water before rinsing then drying. This simple practice will ensure that any potentially harmful bacteria from unclean surfaces are not transferred to your skin.
2. Eat clean
This habit doesn’t necessarily mean eating healthy. It only means that you should eat foods that have been prepared, cooked and served safely manner. It means washing all cooking and preparation utensils and materials, as well as washing your hands before coming in contact with food. If you notice that food at a restaurant is not being prepared or handled properly, it’s best to avoid it.
3. Wash fresh foods
Fresh foods such as fruits and chicken can sometimes have harmful bacteria on them. It is best to have all fruits and vegetables washed with clean water before being served or cooked. The juices of raw chicken can sometimes carry salmonella bacteria. That can be removed before preparing to cook. And remember, for chicken, it’s important to cook it well as raw chicken can cause severe food poisoning.
Things to Help You Feel Better When Have Gastro
If you have contracted gastro, you will most likely need to seek medical attention. You will get advice on how to approach it and may get prescribed with medication based on your personal circumstances. In most cases, it’s best to let it run its course. Fortunately enough, there are remedies and treatments you can use to help you get through this tough time.
1. Stay hydrated
During gastro, you’ll notice that vomiting and diarrhea can occur quite regularly. By drinking enough water (8-12 glasses a day), you will keep your skin, organs, and gut hydrated. It can also help you with nausea and cold sweats.
2. Sufficient rest
Make sure you’re getting extra rest during this period. As your body is fighting off the virus, you’ll need to give it rest, so it has the energy to fight off the harmful bacteria. By staying hydrated and resting more, your body won’t only be trying to restore itself, but you’ll feel better in turn.
3. Consume electrolytes
Sports drinks (caffeine free) and coconut water are commonly consumed by people who go through gastro. As gastro leads to a lot of liquid loss through sweat, vomiting, and diarrhea, electrolytes help provide the body with magnesium, potassium, and phosphate. These help to promote brain health, better functioning muscles, and joints and will help you with nausea or stomach pains.
If you have stomach aches that last longer than usual or suspect that gastroenteritis may be present in you, seek the advice of your medical practitioner immediately. If you don’t take action immediately, your condition may worsen, and you may put others around you at risk of contracting the virus should it be present in you.
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