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Beware the mighty stomach flu this spring

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“Turn your head and sneeze into your arm.” This is an all-too common direction given to young students when the teacher notices him or her sneezing without covering their mouth or nose. What might seem like a harmless sneeze or cough could actually be spreading germs that are not so easy to eliminate, and can turn into something much more potent than a cold.

For the past few months, Long Island has been ravaged by a vicious stomach flu, otherwise known as Gastroenteritis. This illness might not exhibit any warning signs. You might feel fine one moment, then overcome by a sudden wave of nausea the next. That feeling can last for the next few hours. Then the vomiting ensues. After that, the diarrhea begins. While all this is going on, your fever will spike. Then it’s a fight to get to the bathroom every five minutes. For those of you who are lucky enough to be able to walk to the bathroom on your own, you have achieved a small victory. Others may end up needing someone to guide them to the bathroom, or crawling on the floor, or collapsed in the hallway unable to make it to their destination.

Eating and drinking will be close to impossible. If you do manage to get something down, don’t be surprised if it comes right back up a few hours later. Eliminate any product containing milk or other dairy items. That includes English tea, hot chocolate, and coffee. It will further upset your stomach. The same holds true for most foods. This is not the time to eat pizza. Even if you find a quiet moment when your fever breaks and you feel you can eat, walk away from the chips and the brownies. Your stomach does not want to see this. Grape juice and citrus juices are also irritants to the stomach. You need to get past the fever, vomiting and diarrhea before you can even think straight much less eat something appropriate.

If your fever is not coming down and the symptoms are not getting any better, then it is probably time to go to the emergency room. Whether or not you’ve already seen a doctor doesn’t make a difference. Most likely, you are dehydrated and unable to get enough fluids into your body on your own. The IV drip at the hospital will take care of that for you. They will give you whatever medication(s) you need and tell you if you are low on any other vitamins and minerals. Those can be added to the IV drip, as well.

Once you have returned from the hospital, you will probably feel much better. Now is the time to truly watch what you eat and maintain a strict diet. The hospital may suggest a BRAT diet – bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. These foods are not heavy and they won’t upset your stomach. They also contain elements called electrolytes, which our bodies need in order to function properly. Gatorade might also be a good suggestion since it contains electrolytes. We need to replace electrolytes after such a violent illness. Once you are feeling better, a few small sips of water every half hour or so might be recommended. Follow whatever advice the hospital tells you. Eat small amounts and see how it sits in your stomach. You will know in time when you can start to eat regular foods again. You should begin to feel better within a day or two.

At this point, your body is on the road to recovery. As a teacher, you can remind your students to maintain proper hygiene by washing their hands. Also remind them to cover their nose and mouth while sneezing and coughing. Do not share utensils. Wipe down computers, class phone, door handles, and desks with antiseptic every day to get rid of germs. If you do end up getting sick, take time off to get better. With the end of the school year just around the corner, you want to make every day count for both you and your students.

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