Stomach illness often comes quickly with vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. Although you may feel very bad, stomach ailments are rarely serious. Most often it is enough to rest and to drink a lot.
This text is about stomach ailments in adults and children over six years. You can read about children under six in the text Magsjuka in young children.
Symptoms of stomach disease
Typical of stomach ailments is that you get sick quickly and that you usually get better within a few days. The most common symptoms of stomach upset are the following:
- stomach ache.
Sometimes you can also get fever and pain in the body.
When and where should I seek care?
The vast majority of people with stomach ailments do not need to seek care because the problems usually go away after a few days.
- You feel very tired and weak.
- You have had diarrhea for more than a week.
- You vomit for more than a day without slowing down.
- You are stomach upset and are taking medicines for heart failure, diabetes or any other serious illness.
- You are dry in the mouth, thirsty, pee a little and have dark urine. There may be signs that you have a fluid deficiency.
- You have had diarrhea after going abroad.
If it’s in a hurry
If you have one or more of the following symptoms, contact a health care center or an on-call clinic immediately.
- You have bloody diarrhea.
- You have a high fever and chills.
- You have severe stomach pains that do not go over even though you have vomited or have had diarrhea.
If it is closed at the health center or on-call reception, seek care at an emergency room.
Call reception before going there
Some viruses are highly contagious. Therefore, always call the reception before you go there. Then the reception can prepare your visit and make sure you do not infect others.
What can I do for myself?
Most people who get stomach upset can cope with the disease at home. But there are some things that are important to consider.
Drink a little and often
You need to drink more fluid than usual when you are sick. This is especially true if you have a fever or if it is hot weather.
Not drinking enough in case of stomach upset can lead to fluid deficiency and dehydration. Older people and children are extra sensitive. Here you can read more about fluid deficiency and dehydration in children.
Here are some tips to reduce the risk of fluid deficiency:
- Drink a little at a time. Use a tablespoon if you have difficulty getting the liquid.
- Drink liquid replacement. Liquid replacement is available at a pharmacy, or you can mix it yourself.
- Avoid drinking very sweet drinks and light drinks. They can cause more diarrhea.
Eat food when you feel better
Try eating regular food as soon as you feel better and can start eating again. Start with small portions.
Sometimes it may feel good to start with lighter foods, such as one of the following:
- soups such as broth soup, carrot soup, rosehip soup or blueberry soup
- White bread
- cooked fish
Avoid high fiber foods and coffee, it can give you more diarrhea again.
Having diarrhea can cause it to burn and hurt your buttocks. You can then try the following to relieve:
- Wash or shower the butt instead of wiping with paper. Pat dry yourself afterward, do not rub.
- Lubricate the rectum opening with a greasy cream or ointment.
Use medicines if you need to stop diarrhea temporarily
There are medicines you can use if you need to stop diarrhea temporarily, for example before a flight. Examples of such drugs are drugs containing active substance loperamide or racecadotril.
How Does Stomach Disease Infect?
Stomach disease can spread in different ways, depending on whether the stomach disease is caused by viruses or bacteria.
The most common ways you can get infected are the following:
- By drinking water or food rinsed in contaminated water and then not boiled, for example, frozen berries and vegetables.
- Through contact with infected persons.
- Through food and drink handled by a person who is ill.
- Through infected food products, such as beef, pork, chicken meat, egg products, and unpasteurized milk.
How can I prevent stomach upset?
You can reduce the risk of getting yourself sick by doing the following:
- Use different knives and cutting boards for meat and vegetables.
- Carefully cut knives and cutting boards between each use.
- Cool hot food quickly and then keep it cold.
- Heat the food properly when it is to be heated again.
- Wash your hands. You can read more in the chapter How to wash your hands further down in the text.
When you get sick
There are some things you can do to reduce the risk of infecting others if you are sick:
- Stay home from school or work for at least a day after you last vomited or had diarrhea. For children in preschool at least two days.
- Wash your hands with liquid soap and water before every meal and after every toilet visit. It is not enough just to use hand spirit.
- Use your own towel or paper towels.
- Avoid cooking as long as you have symptoms of stomach upset, or if you have permanent wounds on your fingers. Such wounds are often infected by bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
How long should children stay at home?
Children who go to preschool or family daycare can come back when they eat as usual and it has been at least two days without vomiting or having diarrhea.
Children who go to school should stay at home for at least a day after they become healthy.
How long the child should stay at home depends on the child’s age and maturity. The risk of infection decreases if the child can take care of his or her own hygiene, for example going to the toilet himself and washing his hands afterward. That is why the recommendations sometimes differ.
People in the same household who are healthy do not have to stay home for preventative purposes. But it is important to wash your hands carefully and to go home immediately if you get symptoms.
In the case of large and prolonged gastrointestinal outbreaks with many sick children at a preschool or a family daycare center, the spread of infection may be limited by allowing healthy siblings who attend the same preschool or family daycare home.
Here’s how to wash your hands
Always wash your hands when you get home. Washing your hands is effective in removing both viruses and bacteria. Also, wash your hands in connection with the following activities:
- After you have been to the toilet.
- After you help someone in the toilet.
- Before you start cooking.
- After you handle raw meat.
- After you have been in contact with animals and animals, such as on a farm or a zoo.
Treatment for stomach disease
Most people can handle a stomach illness themselves. But if, for example, you have a severe fluid deficiency, you may need to be hospitalized to get fluids and salts directly into your bloodstream via the drip.
Antibiotics can take longer to heal
Stomach disease caused by bacteria rarely needs to be treated with antibiotics. Sometimes antibiotics can even take longer to recover.
The bacteria can also become resistant to antibiotics if used unnecessarily.
Talk to your doctor if you are taking certain medicines
Talk to your doctor if you have a chronic illness and are using medicines, such as one of the following:
- Medicines for high blood pressure or heart failure.
- Medicines for type 2 diabetes containing metformin. If you have diabetes, it is important that you check your blood sugar regularly. This applies whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
If you use the pill and get stomach upset, the pill may not protect against pregnancy.
What happens in the body?
In the case of stomach ailments, the cells in the intestinal mucosa are damaged. The intestine cannot then absorb as much fluid as it usually does. The body gets rid of the excess fluid by vomiting and getting diarrhea.
A healthy gut takes up about two to three liters of fluid per day from what you eat and drink.
If you are pregnant
Pregnancy can make the body more susceptible to infections, but the fetus cannot get stomach upset. However, dehydration can affect, so be sure to drink enough fluid.
It can be safe to know that newborn infants rarely get stomach upset if you get stomach upset with diarrhea just after you give birth.
What is the cause of stomach upset?
Stomach disease is caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites. The symptoms are about the same, no matter what you are infected with. What can differ is, among other things, how you got infected and how long it takes before you get sick.
Viruses that cause stomach upset
Viruses are transmitted directly between people and very easily. It is therefore common for several people to become stomach-sick during the same period, for example at a pre-school, school or workplace.
Viruses can also be transmitted through food, for example, if a person who is ill prepares food for others.
Common viruses that cause stomach upset are the following:
- Calicivirus causing winter malaise.
- Rotavirus, which is the most common cause of children between six months and two years of age getting stomach upset. The vaccine against the rotavirus is included in the vaccination program for barn since 2019.
Bacteria that cause stomach upset
Stomach disease caused by bacteria is often due to one of the following:
- Lack of hygiene when the food is cooked. For example, it may be that the food was not heated up sufficiently, or that knives and cutting boards were used for both meat and vegetables without having been properly washed in between.
- Infected food products, such as meat, chicken, egg products or unpasteurized milk.
- Vegetables that have been fertilized or that have been irrigated with contaminated water.
Doctors should report most such gastric diseases to an infectious disease doctor. You may sometimes have to follow certain precautions if you have been infected in any of the above ways. You will then get more information from your doctor.
Many who become stomach-sick by bacteria have become infected abroad. You can reduce the risk of getting sick in different ways, depending on the country you are traveling to. Sometimes care abroad may be needed.
Examples of bacteria that you can get sick with
Some bacteria that can make you sick are:
- Campylobacter is the bacterium that causes stomach upset in most people.
- Salmonella bacteria, which cause salmonella.
- Shigella, which causes dysentery.
- Different types of coli bacteria that cause tourist diarrhea.
Bacteria can form venom that causes stomach upset
Some bacteria can form a poison in the food that makes you sick. It may happen if food has been stored at the wrong temperature for an extended period of time, for example, hot instead of hot. The poison is then left in the food, even if the food is heated so that the bacteria die.
Examples of such bacteria are yellow staphylococci. They are common in permanent wounds. This is why you should avoid cooking if you have permanent wounds on your hands.
Intestinal parasites can cause stomach upset, most commonly Giardia. You can read more about giardia infection at the Infection Protection Doctors website.
Other that can cause diarrhea and vomiting
Antibiotics can cause you stomach ache, loose stools and you feel unwell. You usually get the symptoms at the end of treatment or the next few days after you finish the treatment. The trouble usually goes over a couple of days after you stop taking the drug.
The symptoms are often due to the number of bacteria in the gut decreasing. The bacteria normally protect against, among other things, intestinal infections. That is why antibiotics can sometimes make it take longer to recover from a stomach illness.
Clostridium difficile is a bacterium that can cause diarrhea in connection with antibiotic therapy.
Stomach pain, diarrhea or vomiting may also be due to any of the following:
- IBS also called sensitive bowel.
- Inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
- Food allergy to the protein gluten, called gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
- Type 1 diabetes.
- Addison’s disease.
Medicines can also make you feel sick, get stomach upset and loose stools. Talk to your doctor if you are taking medicine and are unsure if you have become stomach-sick or if it is a side effect of the drug.
Most people do not need to seek care when they get stomach ailments, but sometimes you may need to be examined by a doctor.
You have to tell us
At the doctor, your story is important, about what you did before you became ill. It is needed to get the cause of stomach upset. For example, the doctor or nurse may ask:
- Have others in your area had the same symptoms?
- What did you eat before you got ill?
- Have you been abroad recently, and in such cases were?
You can also tell about your symptoms, such as how often you have diarrhea and how they look.
You’re being investigated
The doctor examines you by, among other things, sensing your stomach, measuring your blood pressure and measuring your heart rate. Your skin and mucous membranes in your mouth are also examined to see if you have a fluid deficiency.
You may need to submit samples
You can pass both blood and urine tests.
You may also be allowed to pass stool tests if the doctor suspects that you have become stomach-sick by viruses, bacteria or intestinal parasites.
Influence and participate in your care
As a patient, you have under the Patient Act chance to affect your health.
You can seek care at any medical center or open specialist clinic you want throughout the country. Sometimes a referral to the open specialist care is required.
You should understand the information
In order for you to be involved in your care and treatment, it is important that you understand the information you receive from the healthcare staff. Ask questions if you don’t understand.
Children should also be involved in their care. The older the child, the more important it is.
You have the opportunity to get help from an interpreter. You also have the opportunity to get help from an interpreter if you have a hearing loss.