Thursday, March 13, 2014

Stomach Flu in West Michigan

Yesterday, WZZM reported that there had been an upsurge in stomach flu cases in West Michigan being reported in hospitals, higher than the four-year average. Of course, the real stomach flu rate is unknown because people only seek treatment when the symptoms get out of control and they experience more life-threatening symptoms like severe dehydration. Most people suffer at home and, if they report it at all, it's on Facebook.

If you have a child in school or work in any large organization, you may have noticed a upsurge in sickness in recent weeks. Just a heads up - whatever strain of viral gastroenteritis this is, it's a monster, highly communicable. It rips through families, leaving nearly all members exhausted and dehydrated. Besides diarrhea and vomiting, other symptoms include chills, muscle aches, headache, and fatigue. It someone in your family falls ill, hunker down for the long haul. It's highly communicable and has a very short incubation period of perhaps 24-48 hours. Locally, the authorities have focused on notifying restaurants because sick people preparing food are potential Typhoid Marys.

The most important thing with stomach flu is to remain hydrated. This can be difficult because even drinking water can provoke vomiting, but if your body loses too much water too quickly, you will have to go to the doctor or the ER where the will put you on an IV. Remember your body is like a car, except that, unfortunately, you can't upgrade your thermostat if your internal temperature gets wonky. You can make sure that what you put in it is beneficial, though. Cars run on oil; bodies run on water. No water, no run. So stay away from sugared drinks, sodas and anything with caffeine. Coffee, tea, and caffeinated sodas are diuretics, and you need water in your body, not out. Mint or chamomile teas are a good substitute, soothing to the stomach while still supplying the water the body requires.

Eat nourishing foods too, when you can. They will help you get your strength back. You may find that taking a hot bath will relax you and help you to fight off the chills. The stomach flu isn't the only thing being passed around out there. We are on the tail end of the regular flu season, and it's not too late to get that either, but increasing your intact of Vitamins C and D, as well as other minerals many Americans are deficient in, such as Magnesium and Iron, can help your body fight off viruses and bacteria.

Stay healthy, and, if you do get sick, stay at home until you get better. Even after the vomiting and diarrhea are gone, you can still infect others. This is doubly true if you prepare food or work with immune compromised people.  Winter is almost over, though. We just have to slog through this last part of ice, cold, and sickness.