10 tips for preventing the dreaded stomach flu

By Nikki Dorrell

10 tips for preventing the dreaded stomach flu
Ensure your chances of catching a stomach bug are as slim as possible with these 10 precautionary tips.

We have all been there before and it isn’t pleasant.

Nausea, vomiting, countless trips to the bathroom, muscle aches and those horrific shakes. When you have norovirus, it seems like the end is fast approaching and you can’t help but make those last minute deals with G-D involving being a better person in exchange for your health being restored.

Norovirus (commonly known as stomach flu, although not related to the flu) are a group of related viruses. Infection with these viruses causes gastroenteritis, which is inflammation of the stomach and intestines. This leads to those horrible symptoms that often come on very suddenly.

Anyone can get norovirus and the bad news is that this can happen several times throughout your life.

It spreads easily and quickly and unfortunately there is no vaccine to prevent infection and no drug to treat it (only those to assist with symptoms). Unfortunately, you just have to wade it out.

While it is not usually a very serious illness, with most people getting better in one to three days, it can be dangerous in young children, the elderly and those affected with other health issues. It can lead to hospitilisation, severe dehydration and even death.

So, how can you prevent catching this dreaded infection?

1. Practice proper hand hygiene

It’s an obvious one yet many still fail to do this properly. Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water, especially after using the toilet, changing diapers and before eating or preparing food. Even if you have been doing some handshaking: wash your hands!

Note: A lot of people don’t realise that those handy alcohol-based sanitisers are not a substitute for washing with soap and water, as the alcohol doesn’t destroy the virus. While they can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, it does not disinfect like soap and water does.

2. Take care in the kitchen

. Don’t forget to carefully rinse fruits and vegetables

. Cook shellfish thoroughly

. Clean surfaces well before preparing food on them

. Keep your meats separate from your vegetables when storing them

. Thaw meat in the refrigerator or microwave

. Cook meat to 71 degrees celsius and maintain at 60 or higher

. Don’t put cooked meat on the plate where raw meat was held

. Refrigerate leftovers within two hours

. Wipe down benches thoroughly after preparing raw meat

3. Take probiotics

Whether through supplements or through natural food sources a build-up of the good bacteria in your intestines will help keep your immune system stronger and the right balance of healthy bacteria in the intestines can help to overpower invading bugs.

4. Sipping apple-cider vinegar on a regular basis

Known for a myriad of health benefits when ingested, consuming apple cider vinegar regularly helps to keep your stomach and intestines in a more alkaline state. Intestinal viruses don’t like an alkaline environment and need an acidic state to thrive.

5. Keep hydrated

One of the reasons people get sick more in winter is because dehydrated skin results in more tiny cracks, which means the body’s largest organ and immune system defence is compromised. This can leave you susceptible to a range of infections including norovirus.

To keep hydrated on the inside, drink lots of fluids and to keep hydrated on the outside, try to avoid long, hot showers and use extra body lotion.

6. Stress Less

The stress hormone ‘cortisol’ works partially by suppressing your immune system, so constant stress can sometimes lead to infection.  Find ways to de-stress: Exercise, meditation, and spending time doing things you love, relax and get plenty of sleep.

7. Use separate personal items in the household

Avoid sharing utensils, glasses and plates and don’t forget to separate towels in the bathroom. You are just tempting fate when doing otherwise.

8. Wash laundry properly

Washing laundry can actually spread germs to other people’s clothes, so try to wash on the hottest cycle possible and bleach where you can. If someone is sick, run an empty cycle with bleach after their clothes have been in the wash.

9. Opt for the dishwasher

Try not to wash dishes by hand when norovirus season is about, as you won’t be able to get the temperature hot enough to kill all the germs and they could end up spreading.

10. Clean the less-obvious places

When doing your household cleaning, don’t forget to clean the less obvious places that tend to harbour germs such as computer keyboards, doorknobs, remote controls and phones.



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