24 hour bugs

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Most of us have experienced the dreaded ‘24 hour bug’, where you start vomiting and experience diarrhoea out of nowhere and for no apparent reason.

As the name suggests, the symptoms also normally disappear just as fast, often within 24 hours. There are so many causes for these episodes and they are very common. The risks of severe dehydration and its effects are high so it’s important to know what to do and when to seek professional advice.

There are two main causes of vomiting and or diarrhoea episodes – they are a viral gut infection, the ‘24 hour stomach bug’, or food poisoning. Dehydration is the main concern and it can develop very quickly, especially in the young or elderly.

If you aren’t able to take in or keep down fluids and are vomiting or have diarrhoea there’s a good chance you are becoming dehydrated.

Symptoms like a headache, not needing to pass urine very often, a dry tongue and mouth or cold clammy skin can confirm dehydration.

Now that we are heading into summer, the risks of becoming dehydrated are much higher.

Firstly, even if you are experiencing severe vomiting and diarrhoea, try to sip small amounts of fluid regularly.

Once you can keep fluids down, start rehydrating straight away with the right type of liquids. Restoring the body’s balance of electrolytes is very important so using a hydration solution that contains electrolytes and glucose will help replace what you have lost.

These are available from your pharmacy and include products like Hydralyte, Gastrolyte and Re-Hydrate. Some of these products come in ice block form as well.

Using plain water, juice or soft drinks helps with hydration but should only be used if the symptoms were very mild. These drinks do not contain the important electrolytes that you lose when symptoms of the 24 hour stomach bug are severe. 

If you cannot keep fluids down for more than 24 hours you should consult your doctor or pharmacist. For young children and babies who won’t keep fluids down, you shouldn’t wait longer than four hours to seek advice from a medical practitioner.

While unpleasant, normally these symptoms pass quickly, so the most important thing is re-hydrating with the correct fluids. If are unsure, especially with young children and the elderly, don’t hesitate to get advice.

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