WJHL.com - Going around: Wicked stomach bug, strep

Going around: Wicked stomach bug, strep

It's time to take a look at the illnesses and ailments that are going around the Tri-Cities area

Dr. Rachel Wilson, a Family Medicine physician with Wellmont Medical Associates in Bristol, Virginia says she is ready for patients who have the flu, but she hasn't seen any yet.  She offers some good advice:

"No cases have been reported in our office so far this year, but now is the time to get a flu vaccination.  Getting immunized the most important way to prepare for flu season.  We are lucky to have had a 2012-2013 flu season that had a low and short peak of influenza-like illness.  However, the flu virus is unpredictable, so protecting yourself with a vaccine is always smart.  Those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease as well as children younger than 5 are at increased risk of complications from influenza infection and should especially make sure they are getting vaccinated.   Flu shots are readily available this season at your doctor's office.  They can also be found at most pharmacies as well as the health department."

Dr. Anastasia Brown at Mountain State's First Assist Kingsport says she hasn't seen any cases of the flu yet, but she is seeing a lot of cases of strep throat, some hand, foot and mouth disease, as well as cases of gastroenteritis.

Christina Hammonds, a Family Nurse Practitioner with Wellmont Medical Associates in Big Stone Gap, Virginia has also seen several cases of gastroenteritis.  That's the horrible stomach bug going around that can cause…well…let's call it intestinal distress!

Hammonds offers more information on gastroenteritis, also known as the stomach flu:

Stomach flu is a viral infection that affects the stomach and small intestine. It is also called viral gastroenteritis. The illness is usually brief, lasting 1 to 3 days.

How does it occur?

The virus can be spread by direct contact with an infected person (for example, kissing or shaking hands) or by sharing food, drink, or eating utensils.

Some bacteria, parasites, medicines, or other medical conditions can cause infections that have symptoms similar to those of stomach flu. If your symptoms are unusually severe or last longer than a few days, your health care provider can determine if the diarrhea is caused by a virus or by something else.

What are the symptoms?

When you have stomach flu, you may have one or more of the following symptoms:

Nausea

vomiting

stomach cramps

diarrhea

mild fever

fatigue

chills

loss of appetite

muscle aches.

The illness may develop over a period of hours, or it may suddenly start with stomach cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea.

How is it diagnosed?

Your health care provider will review your symptoms. He or she may examine you and order lab tests to rule out more serious illnesses, such as appendicitis, and to detect complications, such as dehydration.

How is it treated?

The most important thing to do is to rest the stomach and intestines. You can do this by first eating nothing solid and drinking only clear liquids. A little later you can eat soft bland foods that are easy to digest.

If you have been vomiting a lot, it is best to have only small, frequent sips of liquids. Drinking too much at once, even an ounce or two, may cause more vomiting.

Your choice of liquids is important. If water is the only liquid you can drink without vomiting, that is okay. However, if you have been vomiting often or for a long time, you must replace the minerals, sodium and potassium, that are lost when you vomit.  Drinks such as Pedialyte is good for hydration.  Some sports drinks contain a lot of sugar, which can make diarrhea worse.

You may drink soft drinks without caffeine (such as 7-UP) or Gingerale, which sometimes help with nausea and can be easy to keep down.  Avoid liquids that are acidic (such as orange juice) or caffeinated (such as coffee) or have a lot of carbonation. Do not drink milk until you no longer have diarrhea.

You may start eating soft bland foods when you have not vomited for several hours and are able to drink clear liquids without further upset. Soda crackers, toast, plain noodles, gelatin, eggs, applesauce, and bananas are good first choices. Avoid foods that are acidic, spicy, fatty, or fibrous (such as meats, coarse grains, vegetables). Also avoid dairy products. You may start eating these foods again in 3 days or so, when all signs of illness have passed.

If you have been vomiting for more than a day or have had diarrhea for over 3 days, call your health care provider. You may need to have an exam to rule out more serious problems and to check for dehydration. You may also need to have lab tests to determine whether bacteria or germs are causing your illness.

How long do the effects last?

Stomach flu rarely lasts longer than 1 to 3 days. However, it may be 1 to 2 weeks before your bowel habits return completely to normal.

How can I take care of myself?

Rest your stomach and intestines by following the guidelines above, but make sure you prevent dehydration by drinking enough liquids. Drink just small amounts often during the vomiting phase of your illness.
Do not take aspirin, ibuprofen, or other NSAIDS without checking first with your health care provider.

Call your health care provider if:

Your symptoms are getting worse.

You continue to have severe symptoms for more than 2 or 3 days, or you are just not getting better after a few days.

You develop symptoms that are not usually caused by stomach flu, such as blood in your vomit, bloody diarrhea, or severe abdominal pain.               

What can I do to help prevent stomach flu?

The single, most helpful way to prevent the spread of stomach flu is frequent, thorough hand washing. Also, avoid contact with an infected person.  Don't share food with someone who has stomach flu.

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