7 Common Stomach Flu Symptoms Experts Say You Need to Know

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  • Also known as stomach or insect flu, norovirus often triggers painful gastrointestinal symptoms as well as fever, body aches and headaches a few days after exposure.

  • Symptoms can last up to 72 hours after onset, but this time frame can vary and depends on how you choose to recover at home.

  • Although there is no specific medication for norovirus, frequent hand washing and cleaning common areas of your home, including the bathroom and kitchen, are essential to prevent it from spreading. propagate.

Federal health officials are warning Americans that annual norovirus cases have recently increased here in the United States, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Highly viral, norovirus can trigger painful episodes of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea in those who touch contaminated surfaces or share direct contact with a sick person, again underscoring the need for thorough hand washing.

According to CDC figures, more than 200 outbreaks of norovirus — sometimes called stomach flu or stomach bug, though it has no official connection to influenza — have occurred between Aug. 1, 2022, and early January 2023. It s is an increase. compared to just 172 outbreaks during the same period last year, according to the CDC; and positive norovirus cases continued to climb through late February. And it’s likely that the total number of norovirus cases is well underreported given that medical testing is needed for a formal diagnosis, as CDC numbers put real-time norovirus cases closer to 20 million each year. .

Norovirus tends to increase in the winter as more people head indoors, spending time at home battling other seasonal illnesses. And because norovirus spreads silently via microscopic virus particles — largely when people accidentally touch an infectious surface and put their fingers in their mouths, or share food or drink with sick people — it can tear apart easily. entire households at once, explains Ali Alhassani, MDpediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital and clinical lead at Summer Health, a digital pediatric care platform.

“Norovirus is highly contagious and only requires a small amount of virus to infect, (so) it makes sense that all of these factors combined have recently led to an increase in cases,” Dr Alhassani said. Good Housekeeping.

You might end up unlucky enough to come into contact with norovirus by eating or drinking something that’s contaminated, causing foodborne illness soon after. But an important aspect of preventing this unique case from affecting loved ones in your household is sanitizing high-touch surfaces in your bathroom and kitchen, explains Carolyn ForteTHE Good housekeeping instituteExecutive Director of the Home Maintenance and Cleaning Lab.

Read on to learn more about the common warning signs of norovirus, how to treat the disease effectively, and how you can work to prevent other members of your family from getting sick as well.

Common Norovirus Symptoms

Many associate the stomach flu with gastrointestinal problems that can make daily living (and even eating!) impossible, causing immense pain for days. But federal health experts are keen to note that norovirus can also cause other flu-like symptoms, which should prompt you to talk to your doctor to see if norovirus may be to blame. If you’ve had headaches or body aches along with stomach discomfort for days on end, norovirus may be at play.

This year’s norovirus outbreaks have been found to be consistent with past years, meaning Americans can continue to look for these two particular subsets of symptoms if they are concerned about suffering from norovirus illness.

“Symptoms of norovirus include (mainly) nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach crampsand sometimes fever, headache And aches“, says Dr. Alhassani. “These symptoms are relatively consistent with other strains from years past.”

Diarrhea and vomiting can be of particular concern as they can easily lead to dehydration, which can cause the condition to worsen due to dizziness and dry mouth. Younger children may not be able to express thirst at this time either, and caregivers will see a lack of tears during frustrated cries if this is also the case.

Since a person can experience some of the hallmark symptoms of norovirus infections as stand-alone problems, you may be wondering if your gastrointestinal discomfort is norovirus-related or something more fleeting. There’s no authentic way to know, but doctors say the easiest way to distinguish between norovirus and less gastrointestinal distress that’s how long the problem persists.

“Symptoms of norovirus usually appear 12 to 48 hours after exposure, but temporary symptoms of stomach upset appear much faster – within hours,” adds Dr. Alhassani. “However, the symptoms of an upset stomach resolve within 24 hours at most, which is not the case for norovirus infections.”

To recap, here is the full list of potential norovirus symptoms as noted by CDC officials:

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Aches

  • stomach pain

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

It is essential to remember that norovirus – which is just one example of an enterovirus, a group of viruses that can impact the gastrointestinal tract – may require practical medical attention and, in some cases, a hospitalization if symptoms are severe and uncontrolled.

How long does norovirus last?

Unlike other uncomfortable issues like food sensitivity or poor food quality, norovirus disease does not usually produce immediate symptoms; it may take a few days for the symptoms listed above to appear in affected individuals. Dr Alhassani says most norovirus cases cause symptoms to appear between the ages of 12 and 48 hours after exposure.

Not all illnesses caused by norovirus are the same, which means some people may experience more severe symptoms depending on their own exposure as well as any pre-existing health conditions. If you currently have norovirus disease, you should expect to feel extremely sick and have ongoing gastrointestinal issues throughout the day. Feeling continuously nauseous or having chronic diarrhea is expected, for example, until the illness has run its course.

How is norovirus spread?

Simply put, norovirus can be spread through feces, vomit, and other bodily excretions — and more often, through small virus particles that remain transmissible on a contaminated surface. CDC officials note that those affected can “shed billions of norovirus particles” that are naked to the eye, and only a relatively small amount of these virus particles can infect another otherwise healthy individual.

According to published research, people are most contagious when they have symptoms, as well as during the first days of recovery when symptoms have largely disappeared.

Because norovirus virus particles can easily contaminate surfaces – including food that may be placed on soiled surfaces in the kitchen – keeping your hands well washed if you are sick is crucial. Your family will also need to keep an eye on the rest of your home; Clorox and Lysol manufacture products that can effectively kill traces of norovirus on surfaces when used according to manufacturer’s instructions, our Good housekeeping cleaning lab experts say.

“Food preparation and food contact surfaces are important, as are most high-touch areas in the bathroom and kitchen, including faucet handles, appliance handles, handles cabinet and drawer units, light switches and shower knobs,” explains Forté. “And most of these products recommend rinsing them off after using them on food contact surfaces, like countertops and the tray of a baby’s high chair. Be sure to check the instructions for use regarding food contact surfaces.

Using a cleaning product versus a disinfectant spray requires different approaches – but whatever product you use at home to prevent the spread of norovirus, be sure to clean surfaces thoroughly first, then keep them moist with the disinfectant for the required time. For example, Purell’s Multi-Surface Sanitizer requires a surface to remain wet with cleaner for 30 seconds to a minute to be fully sanitized.

“Follow the directions for use on the products, keeping the surface wet for the required time to ensure the product completely kills germs,” adds Forté.

Finally, it’s important to note that hand sanitizer doesn’t always work to eliminate the risk of norovirus and shouldn’t replace hand washing, according to the CDC.

How to treat norovirus at home

The only way to confirm if you have a norovirus infection is to seek medical attention from your doctor or a qualified urgent care clinic, where a PCR test will confirm the presence of the virus. There is no particular medication used to treat norovirus alone, but additional medical care may be needed to treat severe dehydration caused by chronic vomiting and diarrhea.

It’s essential to stay well hydrated during your recovery, working with plenty of water and other fortifying drinks to help your body recover, adds Dr. Alhassani. Using over-the-counter products like Tylenol or Advil can alleviate non-gastrointestinal issues during your recovery.

“Eating foods that are easier to digest — think crackers, toast, rice, and potatoes, for example — is helpful for gastrointestinal distress,” he says. “Most importantly, practicing good hand hygiene will help prevent illness and prevent other people inside the home from getting it as well.”

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