Working on Wellness: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea … oh my!

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By: Lynn Howard, MSN, ANP-C, FNP-C USM Health & Counseling Services

When these symptoms are present it is near impossible to function. What is the cause of it? And when will it get better? are questions patients want answers to.

The cause?
The symptoms are due to stomach and intestines (gastro) inflammation (itis). Other symptoms can include abdominal pain, fatigue, fever, and headache. The most common cause is a viral infection, also known as the stomach flu, although it is not related to Influenza but to other types of viruses. Cases in adults are usually caused by norovirus. It’s highly contagious, and in the United States most commonly occurs between October and April. Viral gastroenteritis symptoms may appear within one to three days after you’re infected.

How can we prevent catching the illness?
By frequent hand washing, not sharing drinks, food, and utensils. This is because of viruses spread through contaminated food or water and contact with an infected person.
Hand washing with warm water and soap is the easiest way to prevent gastroenteritis: Always wash your hands before preparing food or eating and after preparing food and using the toilet. Alcohol-based sanitizers are an acceptable alternative when soap and water are not available.
Don’t share cups kitchen utensils, plates, or towels with other members of your household or dorm.

What do I do? When will I get better?
Symptoms usually last just a day or two.
Rest: As much as able – don’t attend class or activities while you have active symptoms.
Fluids: Sip water/half-strength sports drinks or suck on ice chips. If you vomit using this treatment, do not take anything for 1 hour and start over again. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
If you do not vomit fluids, start full-strength sports drinks; popsicles; clear broth; bouillon; decaf tea; clear apple juice; plain-flavored gelatin; and diluted clear, carbonated beverages without fizz such as ginger ale, lemon-lime sodas, etc. To remove the fizz from soda, pour some into a glass and stir with a spoon.

Medications: avoid medications like ibuprofen or aspirin if possible as they may irritate your stomach.
Food: Don’t eat while actively nauseated and vomiting. But, once that subsides and as you become hungry, try soft foods like saltine crackers, dry white bread/toast, bananas, apple sauce, plain white rice, soft cereals prepared with water, plain noodles and broth soups. Avoid sauces, spicy foods, citrus, raw fruits/vegetables or dairy. Return to a normal diet as tolerated within 24 hours after recovery from vomiting.

Seek medical treatment if:
Symptoms last more than two days.
You’re unable to keep fluids down.
You see blood or mucus in your stool.
You vomit black or dark red material.
You have a fever of 101˚F (38.33˚C) or higher.
You have localized and/or persistent abdominal pain.

Questions?
Contact USM Health and Counseling Services
156 Upton Hall, Gorham Campus Office Hours: MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY 8am– 4:30pm (207) 780-5411
008 Sullivan Gym, Portland Campus Office Hours: MONDAY, THURSDAYS, FRIDAYS 8am – 4:30 pm (207) 780-4701

Lynn Howard, NP-C

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