January 3, 2019

Is it the Flu or a Stomach Bug?


Flu season is now upon us. But when you hear “flu,” do you think “stomach flu,” or influenza “flu?”

Influenza “Flu” Virus

Influenza is different from the “stomach flu.” Influenza is the high fever, body aches, horrible sore throat, decreased energy, massive headache, cough, congestion – and if you are so unlucky, you might also get diarrhea and vomiting. You may not get all the symptoms, but you can get very sick and it can cause death.

Unfortunately, we have no great medicines to help once you are sick. The flu is a virus, and therefore not treatable with antibiotics. There is an antiviral medicine for influenza that is given to the highest risk patients (children under 5 years, the elderly, anyone with underlying medical conditions and hospitalized patients) to try to prevent complications if started within 48 hours of symptoms. But it is not the magic fix. Antivirus medications can lessen symptoms and shorten the course of illness.

“Stomach Flu”

The “stomach flu” is a general term for a viral illness related to stomach cramps, diarrhea, and often vomiting, with or without a fever or other symptoms associated with the flu. Vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration, especially in young children, older adults, and people with other illnesses.

Many viruses can cause the “stomach flu.” One that you may hear a lot about is Norovirus. It is one of the many viruses that can make you sick and it is very contagious. Because Norovirus is different from the influenza virus, the influenza “flu” shot does not prevent it.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

Once you have a virus, there is no magic fix or medicine for getting rid of it. So prevention is your best medicine. To help prevent the spread of viruses, we should:

  • Get the influenza “flu” vaccine
  • Good handwashing practices are important, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers
  • Cover our mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, toys, and commonly shared items
  • Stay home from school or work until there is no fever, vomiting and/or diarrhea for 24 hours
  • Avoid sharing drinks, water bottles, and eating utensils
  • Use tissues for runny noses and throw them in the trash right away

If you do find yourself with a virus, there are comfort measures you can take to feel better. You should also know that through the course of an illness, symptoms can change and you should be aware of when it is time to see a healthcare provider.

Influenza “Flu” Shot

It is not too late to get your influenza “flu” vaccine!

Fort HealthCare patients may request an influenza “flu” shot by calling their primary care clinic for an appointment, or requesting one through secure messaging using the appointment request feature of the MyCompass patient portal and online medical record (www.FortHealthCare.com/MyCompass).

There is a lot of helpful information for parents available on HealthyChildren.org, which is part of the American Academy of Pediatrics website. There is also information about Norovirus symptoms and treatment on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website as well.

Find us on Facebook!

I also invite you to join the Fort HealthCare Pediatrics group on Facebook to keep up to date on the latest news and tips we are sharing to keep kids healthy in our communities. Log in to your Facebook account, search for the group “FHC-Pediatrics” or go to Facebook.com/groups/FHCPediatrics and ask to join.