A change in weather often signals the beginning of flu season in Delhi. This summer, so far, has been no better with stomach flu emerging as the major tormentor for the city.
Hospitals and clinics have been increasingly getting cases of high fever, upset stomach, nausea, abdominal cramps — all common symptoms of gastro-intestinal infection, with doctors claiming a sudden rise in the number of such patients in the past one week or so.
“With the onset of winters or summers, chances of catching a flu increases. Stomach flu, doing the rounds these days, is a seasonal occurrence,” said Dr Vivek Nangia, director, pulmonology and infectious diseases at Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj.
In the past one week, Dr Nangia said he has been treating around 7-8 patients with cases of gastroenteritis daily. He claimed that it started with abdominal cramps that gradually turned into loose motions. In most cases, the patient also tends to run a high-grade fever, with body temperatures shooting up to a high 101°Fahrenheit in certain cases.
Though in India virology studies are not very advanced, still the usual culprits in cases of stomach infection during this weather are a group of viruses that experts have named rota, noro and adeno.
“Viral infections are usually self-limiting and often it does not require self medication — popping random anti-biotic pills — as soon as soon as the symptoms of infection show up. It is advisable to wait for at least two-three days as chances are that the symptom will die down or go away on their own. If the symptoms persists then one needs to undergo tests to rule out diseases like typhoid that come with similar warning signs,” said a senior doctor of the department of gastroenterology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
Manisha Sethi, 34, who works with a management institute in Greater Noida, however, learnt it the hard way. Sethi, who suffered from severe cramps, started taking a number of medicines, none of which helped improve her condition.
“I started feeling uneasy in office a few days back. It began with a little nausea after which I gradually started getting abdominal cramps and later loose motions and fever. I though it to be a normal stomach infection and took regular medicines. The cramps, however, only got worse and my entire abdomen started aching,” she said. After waiting for a couple of days, with no improvement, Sethi finally decided to go see a doctor.
“The doctor told me it was not the usual stomach infection, but I was suffering from stomach viral. I have been taking antibiotics, but feel drained out because of a lot of water loss,” she said.
Though the virus targets all age groups, children under the age of five, elderly above 65 years and pregnant women are the most vulnerable, experts say, and need to be extra careful. “These people are most prone to getting infected in this weather because they have lower immunity. They should never take medicines on their own go visit a doctor at the first sign of infection,” said Dr Rommel Tickoo, senior consultant, department of internal medicine, Max healthcare.
Like all viral infections, stomach flu is also self-limiting and it takes about a week before the symptoms subside. In most cases there is no need for antibiotics.
However, since every bout of fever and loose motion is dehydrating, doctors advise people with fever to consume huge amounts of water with electrolytes (salt).
On an average, a person with stomach viral should drink at least three litres of liquids in the form of water, lemonade, coconut water, buttermilk etc to maintain the electrolyte balance in their body. A mix of warm water, honey and lemon provides great relief.
However, tea, coffee and aerated drinks are a big no-no as they tend to dehydrate further as they are diuretics.
Paracetamol is the safest medicine to bring down fever, doctors say. If temperatures persist beyond two days, visit a doctor to rule out other conditions such as typhoid, cholera, jaundice etc, that can have similar symptoms.