The season of giving may be over, but there’s still a lot of sharing going on in our community – and not in a good way. Many of us probably know someone who has had a respiratory illness, lingering cough, flu, strep throat – or even the dreaded GI bug.
Nurse practitioner Summer Robinson of the CareToday Clinic at East Tennessee Medical Group says that they are seeing plenty of cases of the bug, also called viral gastroenteritis in medical terms, or the “stomach flu” by most.
“It usually causes watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and/or vomiting,” she says, emphasizing that the illness creates significant abdominal pain. “It sometimes also can include a fever, but not always.” Robinson adds that if a fever is present, it’s typically a lower-grade fever.
While a lot of people ride the illness out and let it run its course, there are times to consider seeking medical attention. “It’s best to come in only if you or your loved one can’t keep fluids down for 24 hours or if there’s vomiting for more than two days.” Robinson also says that if there’s blood in the bowel movements of if a fever higher than 104 degrees in adults or 102 degrees in children, it’s an indication that medical care is needed.
Right now, Robinson said most cases they’re seeing or hearing about at the CareToday Clinic are lasting two to three days, but that it sometimes can last up to five days. Unfortunately, there are some in our community who are getting it more than once, too.
Robinson says that it’s being spread through contact with infected people or by ingesting contaminated water. So how do you protect yourself and your family? “The best medicine is prevention and handwashing,” Robinson says. “Separate all personal items at home. Use separate towels in the bathroom, and disinfect all hard surfaces, including countertops, door handles and faucets.” The best disinfectant, Robinson says, is a mixture of two cups of bleach to a gallon of water.
If you’re not so lucky and the stomach flu hits you or your family, know that you need to stay hydrated and continue vigorous handwashing. “You should stay hydrated by drinking fluids with electrolytes, which include Gatorade, Powerade and Pedialyte, for kids,” Robinson advises, adding that when the body is dehydrated, electrolytes are needed most to help it replenish fluids. “It’s not just water that’s needed.”
And to help keep you current on knowing when dehydration is setting in, Robinson offers these tips. “The signs of dehydration include excessive thirst; dry mouth; a deep yellow-colored urine; and weakness, dizziness and/or lightheadedness.” These are all signs that medical attention is needed.
But, the best advice Robinson can give for anyone with the stomach flu – and those in our community who have been lucky enough to avoid it, is “if you know you’re sick, stay home.”
If you need medical attention for stomach flu or any other lingering illness, the CareToday Clinic, located at 266 Joule Street in Alcoa, is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. No appointment is necessary, and insurance and self-pay options are available.