How to Know if You Have a Stomach Virus

Stomach viruses can be painful to some people, or you may feel a little off color but not be sure whether it's a stomach virus or not. If you think you have a stomach virus, but you're unsure, use the following description of symptoms to help you to decide what to do.


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    Understand the symptoms of a stomach virus or flu. This illness affects each area of the gastrointestinal tract. Its symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, and general malaise. You may have one or all of the symptoms if you have a stomach virus.
    • The illness is self limited, meaning the virus usually runs its course in 2-3 days.[1] This means that you should have physical symptoms for under a week.
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    Assess whether you have a stomach virus. Have you come into contact with someone who has a stomach virus? Do you have any of the symptoms of a stomach virus? If your symptoms are mild-moderate nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, you most likely have a garden variety stomach flu caused by the three most common viral pathogens, norwalk, rotavirus, or adenovirus.
    • Those suffering from this type of stomach virus usually do not need medical care in order to recover unless two things are present: you have severe or localized abdominal pain (this could indicate appendicitis, pancreatitis or other serious medical conditions) or you have the signs of dehydration, which are feeling faint or lightheaded, especially upon rising, or racing pulse.
    • In infants and children decreased tear production, decreased wet diapers, sunken skull, and skin tenting (if you pinch the skin it hold the shape) are all signs of dehydration.
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    Contact your doctor if your illness is very extreme or persists for a long period of time. This is especially important if your symptoms don't lessen over time. Call a doctor or visit a clinic if you're experiencing the following symptoms:
    • Increased or constant vomiting for more than a day
    • Fever over 101 °F (38 °C)
    • Diarrhea for more than 2 days
    • Weight loss
    • Decreased urine production
    • Confusion
    • Weakness[2]
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    Know when to get emergency care. Dehydration can become a serious medical issue. If you experience the following symptoms of severe dehydration, visit an emergency room or call for emergency services immediately.
    • Fever higher than 103 °F (39 °C)
    • Confusion
    • Sluggishness (lethargy)
    • Seizures
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Chest or abdominal pains
    • Fainting
    • No urine in the last 12 hours.[3]
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    Be aware that dehydration can be more life-threatening in certain people. Infants and toddlers are at an increased risk complications such as of dehydration as are diabetics, the elderly or those with HIV.[4] Babies and children are at a higher risk of severe dehydration than adults. If you suspect that your child is suffering from dehydration, seek help immediately. Some common symptoms include:
    • Dark urine
    • Drier-than-usual mouth and eyes
    • A lack of tears during crying[5]

Sources and Citations

  1. Janet Torpy MD, Cassio Lynn MA Robert M Golub MD Viral Gastroenterititis, JAMA, The American Journal of Medical Association, August 1 2012 volume 308, Nov (5) 1 528).
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Article Info

Categories: Colds and Viruses