Is Stomach Flu Contagious?

Also called gastroenteritis, the stomach flu is usually caused by a viral infection that directly affects your gastrointestinal system. You can expose your GI system to these viruses by eating contaminated food or getting in physical contact with someone who is already infected. Depending on the type of virus, you may have to deal with the attack for up to 10 days or so. Vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and nausea are some of the most common symptoms. Many people ask how to proceed when they are infected and want to know if stomach flu is contagious or not.

Is Stomach Flu Contagious?

The answer is actually quite tricky. Depending on certain factors, the stomach flu may or may not be contagious.

  • When It's Contagious

It is probably contagious when you are infected with viruses such as the adenovirus, norovirus, and others.

Some contagious bacteria may also cause the same problem – some common examples are shigella, salmonella, and E-coli. It can be contagious when you are infected with contagious parasites, such as the cryptosporidium and giardia lamblia.

  • When It's Not Contagious

Sometimes, the infection is not contagious because the underlying cause is different. This is especially true when you develop gastroenteritis due to antibiotics, food allergies, and toxins.

How Long Is Stomach Flu Contagious?

Depending on the cause of gastroenteritis, you may be contagious for a couple of weeks or sometimes longer.

  • You are contagious the moment you develop an infection if the underlying cause is the exposure to the norovirus. The virus usually lasts a couple of days, but you may remain contagious for a couple of days after the symptoms have disappeared.
  • In case of the rotavirus, you will be contagious even before the symptoms appear. The virus usually affects children and babies. The symptoms usually appear 2-3 days after your exposure to the virus. You may remain contagious up to 2 weeks after recovery.

It is important to bear in mind that you can become infected through contact with contaminated food, surfaces, and objects. Therefore, you need to take special care when someone in your home has gastroenteritis.

Remedies That Help

Is stomach flu contagious? You already know the answer, but you may also be wondering if you can do something to treat the problem at home. There certainly are some effective remedies to try.

1. Increase Your Intake of Fluids

As you will lose vital bodily fluids through vomiting, sweating, and diarrhea, it is of immense importance to replenish those reserves immediately. For this, you need to increase your intake of fluids by taking small sips at regular intervals. You should drink clear liquids, such as broth and water. You can also take OTC medications like Pedialyte or opt for sports drinks that provide you with electrolytes as well. Herbal teas such as peppermint and ginger tea may also help keep you hydrated.

2. Stick to the BRAT Diet

While you are still recovering from the stomach flu, it is important to pay attention to what you eat. It is natural to have no appetite when you are sick and you should not force yourself to eat either. Keep drinking fluids and wait until your symptoms improve. Once you feel better, start with the BRAT Diet, which stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast.

  • Bananas are not heavy on your digestive system and strengthen the stomach lining.
  • Rice provides you with fiber and carbs to keep your energy up.
  • Applesauce helps with diarrhea and provides you with sugar and carbs to give you an energy boost.
  • And finally, white bread toast can help keep you full.

3. Make Use of Acupressure to Control Nausea

You can use acupressure to treat some types of nausea. Find a point about three fingers down from the bottom of your palm. Stimulate it by pressing on it with your thumb. Ideally, you should look for a sensitive spot between your two tendons and then massage it for a couple of minutes to reduce nausea.

4. Take Adequate Rest

Understand that your body is trying hard to eliminate the infection, so you should make things easier by getting plenty of rest. Reduce your activity level and get plenty of sleep. Even when you are lounging on the couch, your body is still at work, trying to get rid of the infection. So, give it some time to repair itself.

5. Be Careful with Medication

You need to understand that you cannot treat gastroenteritis with medication because antibiotics are not going to work to clear a viral infection. Some OTC medication may help with certain symptoms though. You can take ibuprofen to deal with fever or aches, but discontinue its use if it upsets your stomach even more. You can take acetaminophen if you do not already have liver disease. Sometimes, OTC anti-diarrheal medication may also help – some popular choices are Pepto-Bismol and Imodium. Be sure to talk to your doctor before trying to treat your stomach flu with medication.

How to Prevent Stomach Flu

Is stomach flu contagious? Yes, it can be, and it is actually difficult to deal with it because there are no medications that work. Therefore, it is better to prevent it in the first place. Here are some steps to take to avoid intestinal infections.

  • Be sure to wash your hands regularly. Ask your children to do the same. You should always wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet. You can use soap and water for added protection. Be sure to rub your hands for at least 20 seconds before washing them with water. Always wash beneath fingernails, around cuticles, and in the creases of the hands.
  • Do not share personal items with someone who is infected. You should avoid sharing glasses, eating utensils, and plates with those who have gastroenteritis. You should use a separate towel in the bathroom.
  • Maintain your distance from someone who is infected. The best way to prevent the infection is to keep your distance from someone who is currently dealing with the infection.
  • Pay attention to disinfecting hard surfaces. You can become infected by touching contaminated hard surfaces. Therefore, you should disinfect surfaces, like faucets, counters, and doorknobs when someone in your home has the infection. 
 
 
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