Gastroenteritis or intestinal influenzas are common infections that affect the stomach and intestines. Let’s find out together what the symptoms are, the incubation times and the possible cure and prevention of this unpleasant viral infection.
Although it is usually called intestinal flu (viral gastroenteritis), it has nothing in common with seasonal flu.
Seasonal flu causes high fever, muscle pain and respiratory symptoms such as cough and cold; it is transmitted mostly through coughs and sneezes and is the cause of different types of viruses that change every year.
Intestinal flu, on the other hand, is characterized by the feeling of nausea, with or without vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and diarrhoea; it is transmitted via the faecal-oral route and is caused in most cases by Rotavirus or Norovirus, Adenovirus, Sapovirus and Astrovirus.
Intestinal Flu: Symptoms and Duration
Gastroenteritis, therefore, is caused by viruses that cause inflammation of the stomach and / or small intestine, causing the following symptoms:
- cramps and abdominal pain,
- nausea which may be accompanied by vomiting,
- general malaise and fever.
Intestinal flu is highly contagious, and symptoms can appear within a day after coming in to contact with the infection and cause symptoms that lasts up to 4-5 days. Those who have contracted gastroenteritis are infectious from the onset of symptoms until at least 48 hours after their disappearance.
After infection, immunity is acquired only for the virus that has infected us, but in any case, it is immunity limited in time. The symptomatology generally resolves within a few days, but in the case of compromised immune defences or other underlying health conditions, it is possible that they last even for more than a week.
Intestinal Virus: What To do, Treatments and Remedies
There are no specific treatments to treat intestinal flu. You just have to arm yourself with patience and wait for the virus to run its course. Being an infection caused by a virus, antibiotics will not be effective; however, you can take some precautions such as:
- Hand washing is the most effective method of preventing intestinal flu and limiting its spread.
- Drink plenty of fluids in the case of diarrhoea and vomiting, as many liquids and minerals that are fundamental for our body are lost. The elderly and children are at increased risk of dehydration because they often do not feel the need to drink. Signs of dehydration are a dry mouth, reduced urine output, concentrated urine, lethargy, weakness and dizziness. Water is the best fluid to drink, but fruit juice or soups can be taken. Sucking on ice cubes is another effective way of taking small amounts of fluid. Rehydration drinks made from sachets available from pharmacies can also be taken to help prevent dehydration.
- Avoid fatty foods: Plain foods such as soup, rice, pasta, and bread are the best to help replenish the lost mineral salts. Raw vegetables should be avoided because they are rich in fibre and water, which could hyper stimulate the intestine. Sweet carbonated drinks, coffee, alcohol and dairy products are also best avoided.
Paracetamol can be taken to reduce fever and to ease aches and pains.
Advice about taking an antidiarrheal medication such as loperamide or an anti-vomiting medication, such as metoclopramide can be sought from your GP or pharmacist.
Lactic ferments can help to speed up healing and recovery because they stimulate the intestinal flora to defend our body.
It is essential to seek medical advice if you have a temperature over 38C, you have bloody diarrhoea, you have severe signs of dehydration such as persistent dizziness, reduced urine or no urine output, or reduced consciousness. You should also seek medical advice if you have persistent vomiting and you are unable to keep any fluids down, or you have recently returned from a part of the world that has poor sanitation.