We’ve all dealt with them before: gnarly stomach bugs that seem to come out of nowhere and take us down, fast. Where do they come from and how do we keep them from happening to us? Today, we’re going to talk about what causes them, how to prevent them, how to take care of yourself if you get one, and when it’s time to consider getting some medical help.
What’s Up with Stomach Bugs?
Stomach bugs, also known as gastroenteritis, are no fun at all. They often strike when you least expect it, leaving you feeling weak, deprived of energy, and just plain sick. But what causes them? Well, stomach bugs can be triggered by different types of germs, or microbes. Here are the two most common culprits:
- Viral Villains: Sometimes, viruses like norovirus or rotavirus are the culprits. They can easily spread through contaminated food, water, or surfaces.
- Bacterial Baddies: Other times, bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella can lead to stomach upset. This can happen when you eat undercooked or contaminated food.
Symptoms of Stomach Bugs: What to Expect If You Come Down With One
If you’ve had one before, you know how it feels. In short, not good. But if you’re among the lucky few who’ve never had a stomach bug before, here’s what you can anticipate if and when you do:
Nausea: That queasy feeling in your stomach, often accompanied by the urge to vomit.
Vomiting: When your stomach empties itself through your mouth, usually in response to nausea.
Diarrhea: Frequent, loose, or watery bowel movements that can lead to dehydration.
Abdominal Pain: Cramps and discomfort in your stomach area.
Fever: Sometimes, stomach bugs can cause a low-grade fever that can leave you feeling either overheated or with the chills.
Headache: Feeling like you’ve got a tight band around your head.
Muscle Aches: General body discomfort, like you’ve had a tough workout.
Dehydration: Symptoms may include dry mouth, extreme thirst, and dark yellow urine.
Preventing Stomach Bugs
Now, let’s talk about how to keep stomach bugs at bay. Prevention is the name of the game, and it’s not as hard as you might think! Here are some simple tips to remember:
- Wash Your Hands: Believe it or not, handwashing is up there with your top tools against stomach bugs. Wash up often, especially before eating, after using the bathroom, and after touching anything that might be contaminated. Use antimicrobial soap and pay special attention to the spaces between your fingers, under your fingernails, and the palms of your hands.
- Cook Food Safely: When you’re in charge of the kitchen, make sure to cook your food thoroughly. You can use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of animal proteins to ensure they’re properly heated. It’s also important to keep hot food hot while you’re serving it, and to refrigerate it once you’re done. Foods stored between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit can be breeding grounds for microbes like E. coli that can make you very sick. Always refrigerate unused food at 40 degrees or less, and keep food that is being served heated to 136 degrees or more.
- Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. This can help you recover faster if you do catch a stomach bug. A good rule of thumb is to aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day, if possible. Coffee, tea, milk and juice also count toward your hydration goals, although they might not be your best bet while recovering from a stomach bug. Stick to plain water, slowly sip ginger ale, and/or get down some electrolyte-rich sports drink that can help replenish key compounds in your body.
- Avoid Spreading Germs: Try not to share utensils, glasses, straws, or anything else that might pass germs from one person to another.
- Stay Home When Sick: If you’re experiencing symptoms of a stomach bug like nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea, it’s best to stay home and avoid spreading the bug to others. Stomach bugs can be highly contagious, so it’s really best to stay home and rest.
Home First Aid for Stomach Bugs
If you come down with a stomach bug, don’t panic. There are plenty of things you can do to feel better and ride out the wave of illness. Here’s how you can take good care of yourself while you recover from a stomach bug:
Hydrate: Drink clear fluids like water, clear broths, or oral rehydration solutions to stay hydrated. Small sips are usually easier to keep down.
Rest: Give your body some much-needed rest to help with the healing process.
Avoid Solid Foods: Stay away from solid foods until vomiting and diarrhea have subsided. Once you start feeling better, ease back into eating with bland foods like plain rice, applesauce, or toast.
Medications: Over-the-counter medications like anti-nausea drugs can help stave off vomiting, but consult with a healthcare professional before taking any medication, especially for children.
Wash Your Hands: Continue practicing good hand hygiene to avoid spreading the bug to others or re-infecting yourself.
Isolate: If you’re in a shared living space, try to stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom if possible to prevent spreading the bug to others.
Stay Home: If you’re feeling unwell, it’s best to stay home to avoid infecting others. This also gives you the rest you need to recover.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Okay, so you’ve been hit by a stomach bug. When should you start thinking about getting some professional help? Well, here’s when it’s a good idea to consider a trip to Swift Urgent Care:
- Dehydration: If you can’t keep fluids down for 8 hours or more, or if you’re experiencing severe diarrhea, dehydration can be a real concern. We can help rehydrate you quickly and safely.
- Persistent Symptoms: If your symptoms aren’t improving after a couple of days or they’re getting worse over time, it’s time to consult a healthcare expert.
- High Fever: A high fever (over 103 degrees Fahrenheit for adults) is a sign that it might be more than just a simple bug, and that a professional opinion is needed.
- Underlying Health Issues: If you have other health conditions that might complicate matters, such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease, it’s best to get checked out sooner rather than later.
Help at Swift
At Swift Urgent Care, we’re here for you when you need us most. If you’re dealing with nausea, vomiting, or other stomach bug symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a visit. You can also walk in and be seen promptly without an appointment any time we’re open. Our team is ready to provide the care you need to help you get back on your feet.
Summing it Up:
Stomach bugs are never a good time, but knowing how to prevent them and when to seek help can make a big difference. Remember to wash your hands, cook your food thoroughly, and avoid sharing utensils and straws. If you’re unsure about your symptoms or need some medical attention, Swift Urgent Care is here to provide the care and support you need.