Very long-lasting stomach bug.
January 6, 2010 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Very long-lasting stomach bug. Good self-care (well-hydrated, well-slept) but symptoms still bad after 13 days.

I'm uninsured (and having no acute or dangerous symptoms anyway), so I'm looking for self-help advice.

- My first stomach bug; I've never experienced something like this. Very healthy early-30s female -- no prescriptions, no recent illness, no international travel, no alcohol or drugs. And I've varied my diet so there's nothing I've eaten/drunk consistently over the last two weeks.

- Today is the 13th day I've had nothing but diarrhea.

- I've thrown up five times since New Year's Day (and I've felt the urge to many more times, but I've now mostly learned the skill of relaxing my throat/muscles out of that urge).

- No sharp pains at any point, but a nearly constant 'wash' of mild to medium pain/discomfort and mild nausea in my stomach and abdomen. Consistently, the discomfort and nausea are mild to medium during the day, then medium to bad at night.

- No head or sinus effects, and only a slight intermittent fever (1 or 2 degrees).

- Well hydrated, getting lots of sleep, feel like my brain's working fine, and have gradually moved back towards good food, good protein, etc.

I'm clearly a bit better than I was, say, five days ago, but the progress is so slow (and the past 2 or 3 days have felt totally the same to me). I'm really at a loss. Feeling like this will never end.

Do you have any not-my-doctor advice? Medicines I could try, foods (vegetarian) I should be eating, any way of alleviating nausea?
posted by sparrows to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
no acute or dangerous symptoms anyway

You don't know that two weeks of diarrhea and five days of vomiting aren't dangerous. Please go to the doctor.
posted by Pax at 2:45 PM on January 6, 2010

I don't mean to be flip but are you sure you're not pregnant?
posted by moof at 2:46 PM on January 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get thee to a medical professional.

Even if you stay well hydrated, the bowel irritation can cause serious issues.

I'm not sure you have a stomach bug. It's involuntary vomiting. Often at the same time as involuntary bowel movements.

If you still refuse to seek medical help: Popsicle and pepto bismol. Maybe some immodium.
posted by royalsong at 2:47 PM on January 6, 2010

moof's comment was my first thought too. Especially since you didn't mention whether or not pregnancy was possible in your post.
posted by Coatlicue at 3:05 PM on January 6, 2010

You don't have to have traveled internationally to have picked up a parasite like giardia. You need to have some blood work done.
posted by meerkatty at 3:11 PM on January 6, 2010

but a nearly constant 'wash' of mild to medium pain/discomfort and mild nausea in my stomach and abdomen. Consistently, the discomfort and nausea are mild to medium during the day, then medium to bad at night.

This describes the first three months of my pregnancy to a tee. Sorry if that's alarming.
posted by anastasiav at 3:38 PM on January 6, 2010

You might have typhoid. I live in Mexico where it's fairly common. You catch it most often by food contaminated by fecal matter (i.e. the cooks don't wash their hands). I know doctors in the US don't really have it on their radars, but what you describe sounds similar to what people with typhoid have told me about their symptoms. When you go to the doctor, maybe you can ask for a typhoid check too. There are all kinds of parasites, viruses, and bacteria that can cause longterm stomach upset. Most are highly treatable once diagnosed.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 4:25 PM on January 6, 2010

You might have typhoid.

TYPHOID? Really? With no fever after two weeks? With no delirium? No painful, distended abdomen? No hemmorhage? No rash, no bloody nose, no encephalitis, etc etc? So a completely atypical case of a disease with fewer than 300 cases a year in a population of 300,000,000, the vast majority of which are contracted by people who travel overseas to less developed nations? Because OP has some diarrhea and occasional vomiting?


OP: I don't know what's wrong. Getting a pregnancy test is a good idea. You have the tag "flu" on your question, though, and it doesn't sound anything like influenza which is not a "stomach" bug. Or maybe you had food poisoning.... serious food poisoning can linger like this. As long as you aren't pregnant and you continue to improve, well, that's good. If you stop improving or get worse I would see a doctor right away.

But of the plethora of things to worry about, I would rate having typhoid fever somewhere around "lightning strike".
posted by Justinian at 5:12 PM on January 6, 2010

What you have sounds very similar to what I had at the beginning of 2009. Two weeks in, I went to a gastroenterologist, she examined me and performed some tests, and determined that I just had a very bad stomach bug that was going around at the time, and she sent me home with the caveat that I was to come back in a week if things hadn't improved. By the end of that week, they'd improved.

This isn't to say that you also just have a terrible bug--I think you should find a way to go to the doctor--but to calm you down and provide evidence that your symptoms CAN just be a bug, and not typhoid(!).
posted by millipede at 5:39 PM on January 6, 2010

You need to get medical attention if for no other reason that to make sure you don't inadvertently infect someone else. Salmonella, Giardia, E-Coli... all things you can easily pass on to others that need to be treated with medication. If you don't do it for you, do it to potentially protect those you come into contact with.
posted by cecic at 5:48 PM on January 6, 2010

I also thought of pregnancy as a possibility, another is salmonella. According to the USDA fact sheet I just linked to "Most people experience diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 8 to 72 hours after the contaminated food was eaten. Additional symptoms may be chills, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms usually disappear within 4 to 7 days." But also note "Persons with diarrhea usually recover completely, although it may be several months before their bowel habits are entirely normal." Still worth a trip to the Dr. though. I know how awful and expensive being uninsured can be, but if you can get somewhere like a Minute Clinic, it might be a good start, though I suppose they might just send you somewhere more expensive.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 5:49 PM on January 6, 2010

I won't speak to the possible causes - people have covered that pretty thoroughly. Try some ginger tea for the nausea though - cut up some fresh ginger - an inch long piece cut in thin slices - cover w/couple cups of water and boil gently for 5+ minutes - add honey to taste. It really helps - as does crystallized ginger.

I agree with everyone else though - 13 days is too long to be having digestive tract issues without getting checked. feel better soon!
posted by leslies at 6:33 PM on January 6, 2010

Response by poster: Got a "NO" from an OTC pregnancy test (it was a logical theory, and yes an alarming one! :)) and also picked up some anti-diarrheal medicine. If that doesn't work by tomorrow, I'll definitely think about doctor options. Will also take the second pregnancy test tomorrow to be sure, because two tests came in the box. I really appreciate all the help.
posted by sparrows at 8:39 PM on January 6, 2010

A good friend had a stomach flu that caused lingering symptoms for a few weeks. As I recall she was on a sort of prolonged "stage 1" diet for recovering from a stomach flu -- chicken and rice, cooked vegetables and fruits (applesauce, not raw apples), as little fat as possible. She did improve, slowly, and is now back to her normal diet.

If it happens to be something like that, you would probably be fine self-treating.

But another friend with lingering stomach issues had gallstones, which required surgery.

If it happens to be something like that, you'd need a doctor.

The problem is that none of us can tell you whether it's either of these or something else entirely! And I think the see-a-doctor guidelines for diarrhea/vomiting are well under 13 days. So I think that's what you should do, at this point.
posted by palliser at 8:50 PM on January 6, 2010

Take the 2nd pregnancy test in the morning, with your first urination. The detectable hormone is more concentrated overnight (well, if you're not peeing all night, that is), and thus would be more detectable if it's there. Seeing a doctor is a good idea regardless.
posted by so_gracefully at 9:24 PM on January 6, 2010

As the variety of answers suggests, it could be anything. But what everyone agrees with is that you should see a doctor. OTC tests and drugs don't cut it.

Moreover, antidiarrheal medicines (Kaopectate, Immodium, etc) only treat the symptoms of diarrhea temporarily. If the cause is not fixed, your diarrhea will just return.
posted by randomstriker at 12:13 AM on January 7, 2010

I had something similar last year with the exact same symptoms. Was out of it for about 10 days. After 3 days, I went to the doctor. He told me to wait for 2 more days to see if I felt better. I did not. Came back and he said that stomach bugs can, with extended periods of time, mess up the bacteria levels in your stomach so that it is no longer able to heal itself properly. He put me on antibiotics to kill the lingering stomach bugs and another prescription of medicine to regrow the good bacteria back.

The medicine kicked in quickly and helped immensely. I never did get a conclusive diagnosis, so I can't tell you what it was specifically. Go see a doctor.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:23 AM on January 7, 2010

I'm glad you're considering the doctor. In the meantime, make yourself some Oral Rehydration Solution, and drink plenty after you have diarrhea or vomit. It will help you stay hydrated, and once you get used to the crazy taste, it's actually pretty soothing on the stomach.
posted by carmen at 10:09 AM on January 7, 2010

My girlfriend went through something like this last fall, caused by a campylobacter infection. Even though a bunch of doctors were involved, they didn't really do anything except keeping her hydrated and waiting for it to go away.
posted by themel at 10:55 AM on January 7, 2010


There's a small outside possibility that it's dysentery, although that usually presents with a higher fever. It, along with some other less evil bugs, will actually cause more trouble for you if you drink liquids.

I think it's been long enough that you need to speak to doctor and have a few blood tests. Two weeks of diarrhea is much more serious than you're giving it credit for.

I hope you feel better soon!
posted by Citrus at 12:33 PM on January 7, 2010

There's a small outside possibility that it's dysentery, although that usually presents with a higher fever. It, along with some other less evil bugs, will actually cause more trouble for you if you drink liquids.

I must be misreading you because if you don't drink liquids with dysentery you die.
posted by Justinian at 2:24 PM on January 7, 2010

Response by poster: We seem to have lost a few answers in this thread after the small mefi problem on the 8th of Jan, but I saw a doctor and am taking two broad-spectrum antibiotics as of yesterday. Still vomiting occasionally, and still only having diarrhea, but feeling MUCH less nauseated and bad overall.
posted by sparrows at 10:15 AM on January 10, 2010

Response by poster: (This was at an Urgent Care office, so there weren't blood tests or other tests; doc just listened to my descriptions, listened to my heart and prescribed antibiotics. I suppose if the antibiotics don't eventually work I will need more tests of some sort.)
posted by sparrows at 10:19 AM on January 10, 2010

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