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Stomach Problems Got You Down?

Written by Patricia M. Ruiz, DNP, APN

Posted in: Colds & Flu, Health Tips, Prevention

Color cartoon graphic of germs.

Stomach and intestinal problems are usually caused by an infection passed on by another person, it’s much more common than food-related illness. These viral infections are by watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting, and sometimes fever.

How Does Viral Gastroenteritis Spread?

The most common way to develop viral gastroenteritis, often called stomach flu, is through contact with an infected person when you share utensils, foods, drinking liquids that are contaminated with the virus, or touching infected surfaces or objects and then putting your hands in or near your mouth. Stomach viruses can also spread quickly in group settings like schools, residence halls, and daycare centers.

Symptoms of the virus usually begin 12 to 48 hours after a person has come in contact with the virus, and last for 1 to 3 days.

  • Watery, usually non-bloody diarrhea — bloody diarrhea usually means you have a different, more severe infection.
  • Abdominal cramps and pain.
  • Nausea, vomiting or both.
  • Occasional muscle aches or headache.
  • Low-grade fever.
  • How Is It treated?

There are no specific treatments for gastroenteritis, it cannot be treated with antibiotics because it is not caused by bacteria. Drinking fluids is important to replace fluid loss from vomiting and diarrhea and to prevent dehydration.

Seek Medical Attention For Any Of the following:

  • You’re not able to keep liquids down for 12 hours.
  • You’ve been vomiting for more than 24 hours.
  • You’re vomiting blood.
  • You’re dehydrated — signs of dehydration include excessive thirst, dry mouth, deep yellow urine or little or no urine, and severe weakness, dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • You notice blood in your bowel movements.
  • You have a fever above 102°F.

Depending on the cause, viral gastroenteritis symptoms may appear within one to three days after you’re infected and can range from mild to severe. Symptoms usually last just a day or two, but occasionally they may persist as long as 10 days.

There’s no cure for viral gastroenteritis, so prevention is key. Here are some tips:

  • Thorough and frequent hand-washing with soap and water is your best defense.
  • Do not share food or utensils.
  • Avoid close contact with ill people.
  • Avoid contaminated food and water.

If you are concerned about an intestinal problem, call the University Health Center 973-655-3459 and make an appointment to see one of our medical providers.