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Symptoms of Stomach Virus

Learn about the symptoms of a stomach virus.

A stomach virus can take you off your feet. [© Jupiter Images, 2009]
© Jupiter Images, 2009
A stomach virus can take you off your feet.

Many people have experienced the unpleasant symptoms of a stomach virus, or viral gastroenteritis, at one time or another. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), it is the second most common illness in the United States. While stomach virus does not usually lead to serious complications, it can be deadly for some, including infants, the elderly or the ill. This article details the symptoms, causes and treatment of stomach virus.

Viral gastroenteritis is the medical term for what most people call stomach flu, or stomach virus. People can contract stomach virus by consuming contaminated food or water. The illness can also be picked up by sharing food, water or food utensils with a person who has the virus.

Symptoms of Stomach Virus

The unpleasant symptoms of stomach virus usually appear a few days after contracting the illness. The intestinal attack can cause stomach cramps and pain, watery diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. But the symptoms of stomach virus aren't confined to the abdominal area. Stomach virus sufferers also may have to contend with headaches, muscle aches or a low fever.

Thankfully, in mild cases of the illness, stomach virus symptoms last only a few days, and the patient can expect a complete recovery. Those with a more serious case of stomach virus, however, may have to battle the nasty symptoms for more than a week. Infants, the elderly or the ill often can't drink enough fluids to replace the amount lost through excessive vomiting or diarrhea, and risk becoming dehydrated.

Severe stomach virus symptoms require a visit to a doctor. These include vomiting for more than two days, not being able to keep anything down for two days, vomiting blood, blood in the stool and high fever. Battling stomach virus symptoms for more than a few days commonly results in dehydration. If a patient is weak, lightheaded, extremely thirsty or has little or no urine output, it's time to seek medical treatment.

Causes of Stomach Virus

Several different viruses can cause stomach virus symptoms. Rotavirus, for example, is to blame for many cases of stomach virus in infants and children. Fortunately, a vaccine can be given to guard against rotavirus. Noroviruses, a group of viruses that causes stomach virus, typically spread among people in small, closed spaces. Other stomach virus culprits include adenoviruses, sapoviruses, and astroviruses.

Treatment of Stomach Virus

Surprisingly, there is no medical treatment for stomach virus itself. However, there are ways to prevent and treat the dehydration that can result from stomach virus symptoms. Doctors may recommend oral rehydration solution, or ORS, a nonprescription fluid that helps to prevent dehydration in children.
To lessen chances of contracting stomach virus, practice good hygiene, like thorough and frequent hand washing. Also, avoid food or water that might be contaminated. Some raw shellfish, for example, can carry viruses that cause stomach virus. And in some countries, drinking water may be contaminated with viruses.

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