The pandemic is a very tricky time when it comes to recognising one’s body symptoms. Any symptoms like fever, dry cough, and headache and we get alarmed thinking they are a precursor to COVID-19 whereas they are also common when one has stomach flu, or any gastrointestinal issues (GI) like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Let us go down to the basics to know the difference.
Viral gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection accompanied by watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, fever, and vomiting. “This infection can be a matter of concern during winters. You will also be shocked to know that it can be life-threatening for infants, older adults, and people with a compromised immune system. Hence, it is essential to keep stomach flu at bay by adhering to vital tips like hand washing and avoiding cross-contamination of food,” Dr Suresh Birajdar, consultant paediatrician and neonatologist, Motherhood Hospital, Kharghar, Mumbai told The Indian Express (TIE).
It is caused by norovirus or the winter vomiting bug. “It can be caused due to coming in contact with an infected person or by eating contaminated food and water. One may experience chills, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, aches, and even pains,” he said further.
“It may spread to people in confined spaces; which means that transmission from one-person-to-other is also possible. Another cause can be rotavirus. Adults who are infected with rotavirus will not showcase symptoms but still may pass it on to others,” added Dr Birajdar in the report.
How does one differentiate whether it is stomach flu or COVID-19?
Almost 20 per cent of COVID-infected patients are reporting GI symptoms like diarrhoea with no apparent lung issues, Dr Monika Jain, chief of gastroenterology and hepatology, Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, told TIE.
Dr Sukrit Singh Sethi, consultant, gastroenterology and hepatology, Narayana Hospital Gurugram, shared that a recent study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology noted how diarrhoea commonly occurs in people with COVID-19, with 19.4 per cent of the subjects experiencing diarrhoea as their first symptom. Additionally, researchers at Stanford University found that up to 30 per cent of patients with mild COVID-19 had symptoms affecting the digestive system, the report added.
COVID-19 symptoms vs GI symptoms and vice versa
“If the patient comes with COVID symptoms in the form of cough, sore throat etc., followed by GI symptoms, then COVID is likely to be present and it is easy to detect. But the challenge lies in detecting COVID in cases where GI symptoms are apparent but respiratory symptoms are lacking,” Dr Jain told TIE.
He added that symptoms like nausea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen, loss of appetite are also commonly reported in COVID patients. It is, therefore, imperative to be tested and treated for the same.
A patient should be admitted to the hospital without delay in case there is:
*Persistent severe diarrhoea
*Decreased urine output or altered sensorium
Home remedies vs medical treatment
Home remedies may be detrimental, said Dr Sethi. Although stomach flu is curable if treated early, in some cases repeated episodes of vomiting restrict eating and also taking oral medicines. “If diarrhea remains for a longer time and the patient is unable to take adequate fluid, then this condition can affect the kidney as well. The treatment may also involve medicines and therapies,” Dr Birajdar was quoted as saying.
How can one prevent it?
*Pandemic precautions coupled with maintaining hygiene.
*Frequent washing of hands; not touching edibles with unwashed hands.
*Avoiding eating out, or unhygienic and unhealthy food.
*Not sharing personal items such as towels, napkins, plates, utensils, and bedding.
*Cleaning and disinfecting door, knobs, and other surfaces on a weekly basis.
*Drinking ginger or peppermint tea to deal with symptoms of nausea and vomiting. * *Eating bananas and even rice can be a good option. Avoid spicy, oily, and dairy products.