The dreaded stomach flu: No one wants it. Yet, so many of us get it. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control reports there are about 20 million cases of it every year.
The stomach flu, also called viral gastroenteritis, is unpleasant and one of the most common causes of vomiting and diarrhea in young children. And about 80 percent of outbreaks occur between November and April when most of us are stuck inside. Given those stats, you may be wondering how you and your family can stay healthy and avoid catching the “stomach bug?”
Separate fact from fiction on how to prevent and survive stomach flu and be ready the next time the it hits your family.
FACT: Make sure that all of your family members wash their hands thoroughly and often, especially after sneezing and before eating. Teach your kids how to wash their hands correctly. Wet hands with clean running water and apply soap. Rub hands together to make lather and scrub well. Continue rubbing hands for at least 20 seconds, which is the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Rinse hands well under running water. Finally, dry hands using a clean towel or air-dry them.
FICTION: Sports drinks, sweetened sodas and juices don’t meet medical guidelines for helping prevent dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting in children.
Courtney Allgeier, RD, a pediatric researcher with Abbott, explains that such drinks are high in sugar, which can actually make diarrhea worse. Also they don’t contain the proper amounts of the vital minerals lost during diarrhea and vomiting. Instead she recommends using an oral rehydration solution like Abbott’s Pedialyte®. It’s specially formulated to help prevent dehydration due to diarrhea and vomiting.
FACT: An antibiotic will not treat the stomach flu. The best treatment is to stay hydrated and rest. For children, encourage bed rest with plenty of books or activities to keep them entertained. Give them small sips of an oral electrolyte solution. And talk to your doctor about appropriate fever reducer/pain reliever for aches and pains.
FICTION: It’s important to disinfect many household and, most-importantly, all hand-held items that regularly come in contact with germs. Viruses that cause the stomach flu can stay alive on surfaces for up to three hours. Use disposable cleaning tools exclusively if there is already sickness in your home and sanitize your remote, game controls, computer keyboards and cellphones regularly with a disinfecting spray.
Make sure you know the signs of the stomach flu vs. "the flu."
By following a few simple tips, your family can prepare for, help prevent, and help manage diarrhea and vomiting. For more tips, download the Stomach Flu Survival Guide.