A flu or a viral infection doesn’t mean respiratory illness alone, it could also affect your digestive system. Diarrhea is one of the common signs noticed in the rising cases of H3N2 influenza. In majority of the cases (especially pediatric), affected individuals are landing in hospitals due to severe diarrhea and vomiting.
Being down with diarrhea can be a nightmare for those living alone. Speaking to Happiest Health, Rathna D (61) from Bengaluru, suffering from flu like symptoms, shares her fear of falling sick and not staying safe. She says, “I have been down with mild fever, cold and an upset stomach from two days and I am on medication, suggested by doctors. As I live alone, my neighbours keep checking on me and I too have been keeping myself hydrated by drinking warm water, lime juice, buttermilk and hot soups.”
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H3N2 influenza and digestive system
Although it’s true that influenza affects the respiratory system (as it is airborne), it also has an impact on the digestive system, says Dr Kumar Parth, chief surgical gastroenterologist, Sagar Hospitals, Bengaluru. “Once a virus enters the body, it can affect the gastric epithelium, [a tissue that lines the stomach] and the gastrointestinal tract. People down with flu swallow their sputum which carries the virus into the stomach affecting the digestive system,” he said.
“Almost all respiratory viruses cause gastric problems such as gastritis, heartburn or a sour taste in the mouth. Some suffer from diarrhea and vomiting,” adds Dr Pranav Gupta, consultant pediatrician at Doctor Uncle clinic, Delhi.
Choosing probiotics over antibiotics
Dr Parth says that antibiotics are given for bacterial infections and not for viral ones. H3N2 is caused by a virus. “People should not self-medicate and consume antibiotics as they are not helpful. Probiotics are the only solution for any viral infection to soothe your gut,” he adds.
Agreeing with him, Dr Gupta says that antibiotics are not designed to kill viruses and consuming them may result in adverse effects. “Viral illnesses are self-limited, and our bodies need to fight against them by building immunity. Consuming buttermilk, curd and other forms of probiotics are helpful in building immunity and staying hydrated,” he adds.
Managing diarrhea at home
“With severe diarrhea, it is common for one to face dehydration. It is important to take good rest and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. However, drinking just water might not be enough as they need electrolytes,” says Dr Gupta.
He adds that knowing how to prepare ORS (oral rehydration salts) at home comes in handy. “To replace fluid loss, one can drink plenty of water by adding sugar and salt to prevent dehydration,” he says.
Dr Parth says that diarrhea can be managed at home by staying hydrated and consuming probiotic, antioxidants (such as zinc) and electrolytes. He cautions that vomiting and blood in the stool is a sign to visit the hospital as it could lead to colitis (inflammation of the inner lining of the colon).
Is the treatment same for children?
Diarrhea and vomiting are more common among children along with other respiratory-related symptoms such as cough, runny nose and fever, says Dr Gupta, who has been treating H3N2 influenza cases in Delhi.
Treatment for children is the same as for an adult based on the symptoms exhibited. “Drinking plenty of water and fluids is the solution for diarrhea and GI [gastrointestinal] related issues. Children can have vegetable soups as it not only adds to the taste, but is also nutritious,” says Dr Gupta. He suggests that avoiding crowd gathering will reduce the risk of spreading viruses.
According to Dr Gupta, infants, senior citizens and people with co-morbidities are more susceptible to viral infection and hence, it is important to vaccinate children and the elderly.
- Apart from affecting the respiratory system, influenza viruses can also cause an impact on the digestive system.
- An individual having repeated episodes of diarrhea should consult a doctor or visit a hospital.
- Nutritious food, adequate rest and plenty of fluids can help to strengthen the immunity to fight against the viruses.
- Consuming probiotics will help in resolving gastric related issues and prevent diarrhea.
Thanks for the positive response!