Dehydration after stomach flu

If you've had a stomach flu (gastroenteritis), you've probably lost a lot of fluids as you endured the misery of diarrhea and vomiting. Dehydration is the most common complication of gastroenteritis. Signs and symptoms of dehydration include:

• Excessive thirst

• Dark yellow urine or infrequent or no urination

• Severe weakness, dizziness or lightheadedness

After a bout with gastrointestinal illness, it's essential that you take in enough fluids to replace those lost from diarrhea and vomiting.

Although gastroenteritis is often called stomach flu, it's not the same as influenza. Real flu (influenza) affects your respiratory system — your nose, throat and lungs — rather than your intestines. But you may become dehydrated after having the flu because you lose your appetite and stop eating and drinking while sick.

■ Prevention and self-care for dehydration after stomach flu

A flu shot is your best line of defense against influenza, although it won't prevent gastroenteritis. Health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that any woman who will be beyond the first trimester of pregnancy during the flu season get a flu shot. Talk with your health care provider about whether that applies to you.

To keep from catching stomach flu, follow common-sense measures such as washing your hands thoroughly, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, and avoiding sharing eating utensils, glasses and plates. Food preparation problems are the most common cause of gastroenteritis.

If you do get a stomach bug, take steps to replenish lost fluids and prevent dehydration:

• Take frequent sips of water and other clear liquids, such as weak, decaffeinated tea, broth, noncaffeinated sports drinks or orange juice diluted with water. Try to drink at least eight to 16 8-ounce glasses of liquid a day.

• Avoid caffeine-containing beverages such as colas, coffee and tea. Caffeine increases the loss of fluids from the body. Milk products may provoke more diarrhea.

■ When to seek medical help for dehydration after stomach flu

Call your health care provider if you have signs of dehydration, if you're not able to keep liquids down for 24 hours or if you're vomiting for more than two days. If you're dehydrated, your health care provider may recommend a rehydration fluid. For severe dehydration, treatment may involve blood tests and intravenous fluids.

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