How to Prevent Stomach Infections

Preventing Stomach Flu

©2006 Publications International, Ltd. Good hygiene is one of the best ways to keep away the stomach flu.

The stomach flu is caused by a number of different viruses, but among the most common tummy invaders are the rotavirus and any of a number of strains of noroviruses.

Stomach Flu Information

"Stomach flu" is a misnomer -- influenza, or flu, is an infection of the respiratory system and has nothing to do with the discomfort in your gut that occurs when one of the previously mentioned viruses produce inflammation in your stomach and intestines. The results are usually nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal cramps. You also might get a headache, chills, muscle aches, and fatigue.

Stomach flu viruses are transmitted through direct contact as well as indirect contact (touching something that's carrying the germs of an infected person, such as a countertop, a toy, or a toilet, and then touching your mouth). Noroviruses can also be spread through food (commonly shellfish, vegetables, and salad greens) and through contaminated water.

Once symptoms begin, the stomach flu usually runs its course in a few days. Because dehydration is the biggest complication of this infection, drinking plenty of fluids is vitally important, especially for children. You should feel much better after a few days and lots of rest, but the viruses can linger in your stool for two to three weeks.

Who's at Risk for Stomach Flu?

All stomach flu viruses are highly contagious, but the rotavirus preys almost exclusively on babies and young children. According to the CDC, the rotavirus is the leading cause of diarrhea in infants and young children in the United States and sends 500,000 little ones to the doctor each year. In fact, almost all kids younger than 5 will have at least one bout with the rotavirus. Adults can get the rotavirus, but adult cases are rare and the effects are much milder. Noroviruses attack children and adults.Defensive Measures Against Stomach FluThese viruses can spread before you even know you're sick, so it's almost impossible to avoid them. You can, however, do your part to keep your home an unwelcome habitat for these digestive dangers:

  • Wash every time. Because stomach flu viruses abound in stool, it's vital to wash your hands thoroughly every time after you use the restroom or change a diaper. This is especially important if you handle food.
  • To get it clean, use chlorine. Wash all your surfaces, countertops, toilets, sinks, and toys with a disinfectant that has a chlorine base.
  • Be quick to sanitize. Wash all your soiled clothes, sheets, towels, etc., in soap and hot water immediately after you vomit or have diarrhea.    
  • Waste away. Flush your vomit or stool and keep the area around the toilet clean. If you're caring for an infant or toddler, dispose of diapers quickly and in a sanitary manner.
  • Wash what you eat. Thoroughly clean your fruits and veggies, and avoid raw oysters and other raw shellfish.
  • Get out of the kitchen. Stay away from food preparation until you've been free of symptoms for two to three days.

When tapeworms infest your body through contaminated food, you might experience nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, or more severe symptoms. Keep reading to learn how to keep this infestation out of your gut. This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.