10 Symptoms of a Stomach Virus

Your child came home yesterday from school vomiting and complaining of stomach pain. Today, you don’t feel so well. Did you catch the stomach bug from your child? Whether it’s from co-workers, family or even from a grocery store shopping cart – stomach viruses can be hard to handle. Perhaps you are not even sure you have a stomach virus. All you are sure of is that you feel terrible. You can’t eat. You can’t keep any fluids down. You’re miserable.

There are plenty of signs and symptoms of stomach bugs (also known as the stomach flu). You may experience all of them or just a few. Due diligence in hand-washing, avoiding sick people and cleaning common surfaces may help some, but viruses are hard to avoid completely. Listed below are the 10 most common symptoms to be on the lookout for when people around you start falling ill. Use this list to help determine if this is a stomach virus that will run its course, or if it something that requires medical attention. If you are unsure, or if the symptoms are severe, it is best to see your physician. He may even be able to suggest things to help ease the symptoms.

1. Abdomen Pain

One of the first clues that you may be getting sick with a stomach virus is abdomen pain. Your gut feels full, bloated or crampy. It could feel like your abdomen is ‘rolling’ or ‘lurching’. In severe cases, you may even be able to hear your stomach rumbling. The pain could feel like a hunger pain – even when you know you are not hungry. It could also feel like gas moving from one area to another. You may feel like you need to stay near a restroom for fear of the pain resulting in diarrhea. Severe pain in the abdomen should always be checked out by a doctor. Illnesses like appendicitis or gall bladder upset can often mimic stomach viruses. In these instances it is always better to be safe than sorry.

2. Diarrhea

After the abdominal pain of a stomach virus, diarrhea will often be the next symptom. In fact, it can cause the stomach pain if it is severe. You may experience cramping, often directly before an urgent need to run to the bathroom. Loose, watery stool, often ‘explosive’ (uncontrollable) accompanies a stomach bug. This may be a precursor to the actual stomach bug or the virus may consist mainly of severe, constant diarrhea. Either way, it is an unpleasant and embarrassing symptom of most stomach viruses. In children and older adults, the loose, watery stools should be monitored closely due to the dehydration that can be caused by it.

3. Stomach Cramps

Stomach cramps are painful. Unfortunately, they often show up with nasty viruses. The cramps can be due to loose stools, continual throwing up, dry heaves or a combination of these symptoms. Continued cramping will make your whole abdominal area feel tender and sore to the touch. The only thing that will really ease the cramps is to deal with the symptoms. This is really hard to do, especially when you can’t keep down anything like over-the-counter medications to soothe and relieve the symptoms. When the cramps feel like they will double you over, try to stand straight or lie down flat. The stretching motion of the abdomen may help to ease the cramp.

4. Belching

Strong, often foul-tasting belching (burping) is often the first sign of stomach upset. When the burping continues, grows stronger, or even comes with stomach acid, it usually signifies a virus on the move. The burping is often the first symptom, making way for everything that will follow. Belches may have a strong odor that accompanies them, along with the foul-taste. That is actually your stomach protesting any food or liquids that remain in it as the virus settles in. Your body knows that emptying the stomach will be the safest way to deal with the upcoming stomach flu that has attacked your body. Occasional belching is normal. Continued belching is what you are looking for when trying to determine if you have a stomach virus.

5. Gagging

You know that awful feeling – your stomach rolling and tossing, teasing you like it’s going to vomit before subsiding into nothing more than a wet gagging. Unfortunately, this is a very common symptom of viruses that attack the digestive system. Gagging, accompanied by excessive saliva and the feeling that you will throw up, can start at anytime during the virus. It can start after your stomach is purged of any food and liquids but still continues to try and empty itself (dry heaves). At the onset of gagging, stay close to a bathroom or have a basin nearby. Usually it will strike fast and unexpected, leaving you lunging for the toilet if you are not prepared.

6. Indigestion

When a stomach is upset, there are many ways the body tries to deal with it. Belching, gagging, a burning sensation, cramps – all of these can be factors of indigestion. Your stomach area may feel sore. You may feel like you are having a heart attack from the pressure in your stomach area. Indigestion from a virus causes food that is found in the system to be rejected by the body. The digestion process is interrupted by the virus. While this does not occur with all stomach maladies, it is a common symptom. Listen to your stomach. Do not try to soothe it with crackers or ginger ale. Your stomach is trying to tell you not to put anything else in there until the virus is over.

7. Nausea

Arguably one of the worst symptoms of a stomach virus is nausea. That hot wet feeling that tightens your jaw, causes excessive swallowing and makes you feel that you will throw up at any moment is nausea. In mild cases of a stomach malady, this symptom may be the only one you experience. Unfortunately, that is not usually the case. Most of the time nausea is accompanied by flushing, sweating, a rolling stomach and eventually throwing up. Sometimes it can be eased with some saltine crackers or ginger ale. Do not add anything to your stomach if you have already began to vomit.

8. Vomiting

Probably the most dreaded of the symptoms, to vomit is one of the surest signs that you’ve been stricken with a stomach virus. Usually, it is not limited to one time, but multiple times daily. This may even continue (due to the virus) after the stomach has been purged of all of its contents. This is known as dry-heaving. Inconvenient, unexpected and definitely uncomfortable, vomiting can last for the whole duration of the virus or just a few hours. It can lead to abdominal cramps, dehydration and fatigue. If it persists more than 24 hours seek medical help to rule out other illnesses like appendicitis or gall bladder attacks that can mimic viruses.

 9. Chills

Chills are actually one of the more minor symptoms of a stomach bug. You can be warm or even sweaty one moment. The next moment you are cold, needing a blanket. This usually comes hand-in-hand with a fever and upset stomach. Many people actually experience chills after throwing up. Fever is usually the cause. Shivering and muscle tension are likely caused by the chills. Fortunately, they can be managed with a warm blanket, layers of clothes or a hot shower. Medications like Ibuprofen or Tylenol can help to control the fever, which may be the underlying cause of the chills.

 10. Dehydration

One of the last symptoms of a stomach virus is dehydration. This is caused by the prior symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The body loses liquid to all of the other symptoms mentioned, leaving the system depleted. Since the body is not taking in any liquids to replace those lost, the result is dehydration. This symptom is marked by lack of urine, powerful thirst, and even lowered blood pressure which can cause fainting. In severe cases, it can be so severe that the person will need to be hospitalized so that IV fluids can be given. IV fluids go directly into the veins, bypassing the already upset stomach. They will help to prevent more devastating consequences like organ failure.