It’s highly contagious, so catching it early is key.
That thing we call the stomach flu? It’s actually not the flu at all. The real name for this kind of illness is “gastroenteritis.” Stomach bugs can be caused by a variety of different viruses that infect and inflames the lining of the intestines.
This stomach virus is often referred to as a flu because they can share a lot of similar symptoms, according to Preeti Parikh, MD, a pediatrician at The Mount Sinai Hospital and chief medical editor for HealthiNation.
“There are many types of viruses that can cause a stomach bug,” says Dr. Parikh, “but the two most common are norovirus and rotavirus.” There’s a rotavirus vaccination for infants to prevent this type of stomach virus, but there is not yet a vaccine for norovirus, which more commonly affects adults. (It’s also known as the cruise ship virus.)
Stomach viruses are highly contagious, and you can catch one in a few different ways, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases:
Not washing your hands after touching a contaminated surface or object, including your sick baby’s diaper
Sharing food or drink with someone who has the virus
Eating contaminated foods, like oysters from contaminated waters (but this is not the same as food poisoning)
Swallowing droplets from an infected person’s sneezes or coughs
Classic signs of the stomach bug include:
Although quite less than pleasant, the stomach flu is usually not a serious threat for most people, and the body can typically overcome a stomach virus on its own within a couple days. The most common complication is dehydration due to loss of fluids in the bathroom. Here’s how to prevent dehydration with a stomach virus.
That said, you’ll want to rule other more serious issues, such as appendicitis. Greenish vomit, constant vomiting and diarrhea, severe stomach pain, and tenderness in the lower right side of your abdomen are clues that your appendix is inflamed and requires immediate medical attention.
For more tips with the stomach virus, here’s how to stomach virus-proof your family.
Preeti Parikh, MD serves as the Chief Medical Officer of HealthiNation. She is a board-certified pediatrician practicing at Westside Pediatrics, is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and is an American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and has completed post-graduate training at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
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So a lot of times we hear of
something called the stomach flu but
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I like to call it a stomach virus.
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Because there are many different
viruses that can cause a stomach virus.
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And a lot of people talk stomach flu
because the flu can actually cause
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A stomach virus is when and individual, or
child, or adult, gets a virus that affects
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their intestines and can cause a lot of
symptoms which can be really debilitating.
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There are many types of viruses
that can cause a stomach bug, but
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the two most common are norovirus and
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And you can get the virus by touching
someone who's infected with the virus.
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Or if you're changing a baby's diaper and
you've touched the diarrhea, and
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you don't wash your hands right away.
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Certain surfaces can still have it.
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You can also get it from food that someone
who has been infected has cooked and
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you've eaten it.
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So there's many different
ways that you can get it.
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With the stomach bug you can
experience stomach cramps.
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You can experience nauseousness,
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You may be getting fever and chills.
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So these are symptoms that if you're
experiencing you may be having
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the stomach bug.
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So how do you tell if the stomach
virus if just a stomach virus or
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you're actually having
something more serious?
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And those are the questions that I
get all the time from my patients.
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So things that I tell them to watch for is
that if the vomiting is turning greenish
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in color, that you're not
able to keep anything down.
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You're just constantly vomiting or
constantly having diarrhea and
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you're getting dehydrated.
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You're having such significant
stomach pain or abdominal cramps.
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And when you touch the right
lower side of your abdomen, and
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it's really very tender,
it could be a sign of appendicitis.
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So making sure you touch base with your
doctor to make sure it's not something
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It's better to be safe than sorry.
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Appendicitis. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (Accessed on December 24, 2021 at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/appendicitis.)Gastroenteritis. Washington, DC: U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on December 24, 2021 at https://medlineplus.gov/gastroenteritis.html.) Rotavirus vaccination. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016. (Accessed on December 24, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/rotavirus/index.html.) Viral gastroenteritis. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2012. (Accessed on December 24, 2021 at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/viral-gastroenteritis.)