The stomach flu is a series of indignities, but perhaps the most grating is the suddenness of its onset. One moment you're happily (or at least not-miserably) going about your business, and the next, you're curled up on the floor, unable to distinguish between nausea and the feeling of your internal organs becoming dislodged. Even if the latter is physically impossible, the signs of the norovirus make you feel like your stomach might turn inside out, and that's bad enough.
Although the norovirus is commonly known as the stomach flu, it's not actually related to the bug that causes influenza. As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) point outs, the flu is a respiratory illness, while the norovirus affects the stomach and intestines, causing symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. In fact, it's one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the United States.
On the other hand, there are numerous strains of the highly contagious virus, and it's possible to catch it from other people. According to the Mayo Clinic website, it's often spread through food or water, touching a contaminated surface, and coming in close contact with someone who's infected. (Wash your hands, folks.) The Mayo Clinic also notes that it usually turns up in crowded environments like nursing homes, cruise ships, and schools. The good news is that symptoms are usually short-lived; according to a 2015 study, they only last about 44 hours.
Norovirus can be caught year-round, but it tends to spike during the winter. As you may have noticed, we happen to be in the middle of the season right now. Although most people totally recover from the norovirus without having to force themselves to the doctor, it's still a good idea to be on the lookout for symptoms. Here are seven common signs of the stomach flu.
It's a classic symptom: Vomiting until you forget what life is like outside the toilet. According to the CDC, you might throw up "many times a day" while the virus lasts.
2. Extreme Nausea
Then there's the nausea, which may be present even when you're not throwing up. According to the Mayo Clinic, it's another classic symptom.
3. Stomach Pain
Abdominal pain is another sign you might have the virus, the CDC reports.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you might also have "watery or loose diarrhea," as if you weren't feeling terrible enough already.
With all the nonsense your body is putting you through, it's no wonder some people run a low-grade fever.
6. Body Ache & Headache
Here's where the stomach flu resembles the actual flu. The CDC writes that norovirus is sometimes accompanied by body aches and/or headaches.
Finally, with all the fluids you're probably expelling, some people develop dehydration. According to the CDC, signs of dehydration in adults include a "decrease in urination, dry mouth and throat, and feeling dizzy when standing up." Children might begin crying with few to no tears and act unusually fussy.
The Mayo Clinic recommends calling your doctor if you experience dehydration; it's not something you want to mess around with. It also suggests seeking medical attention for "severe vomiting, bloody stools, abdominal pain," or if your symptoms last longer than a few days.
Ideally, though, you'll manage to escape catching the norovirus this year. Good luck out there!