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Is it a Flare, Stomach Bug, or Something Worse?

When the average person gets hit with a stomach bug, the recommended treatment is usually to get plenty of rest and fluids. It’s a bit trickier when you suffer from IBD. It gets even more complex, when you also have 3 littles to take care of. Have you ever heard "Mom's don't get sick days?" This couldn't ring more true. I'm always there to hold back hair, answer every beck and call, and provide endless snuggles.

Who is there to hold Mommy? Believe me, I would love to head upstairs, close the blinds and crawl under the covers until I feel better, but that's just not an option. Ok, I had my "woe is me" moment. If you find yourself in a similar situation, load up on the Drip Drop (head to your local Walgreens for this highly concentrated electrolyte powder), head to bed early, and catch some zzz's when you can. Remember, you can always check yourself into the hospital. That's one way to sleep, and get rehydrated with IV fluids. This is a last resort, but sometimes necessary.

With our county's mask mandate being lifted, we're venturing out a bit more, which means A LOT more exposure to germs/viruses, etc. After a fun filled day at the museum and adventure park, my middle daughter (Alice) woke up in the middle of the night throwing up. She also had a temperature of 102.9. The next day the foul illness proceeded to come out the other end. My eldest daughter had spring break, so I did my best to keep Alice away from both Lucy and their younger brother. Nights were pretty tough though, so I slept with her to make sure I was there to comfort her when she awakened. This meant lots of germs being shared.

As a result, my immunocompromised body picked up whatever virus took hold of my little girl. Here’s where it gets complicated. First of all, I’m not in full remission. I am close, but not there yet. My calprotectin levels were finally coming down, and measured in at 231 when I started feeling like I was hit by a bus. So many of the typical stomach bug symptoms parallel that of a Crohn’s flare. Diarrhea, cramps, bloating, chills, etc. I would take a stomach bug over a flare any day, but a bug on top of an existing flare? No thank you.

Unfortunately, when the body is in such a weakened state, the flu or norovirus can turn into something far worse. I am on Humira and Prednisone, both of which are immunosuppressants, so this creates a vulnerable host. Dehydration, organ failure and sepsis are just a few of the life threatening conditions that can take hold. So which is it that I have? A flare, stomach bug or something else?

The first step is to rule out that “something else” bucket. My GI doctor and I work as a team. I know my body well enough that sometimes I will request labs before he does, and other times he will have a different approach. My point in saying this is that YOU are in the driver seat. You don't have to wait for your doctor to put an order in. Take charge, and make the ask yourself.

Here are the most common stool labs listed below that I have done when something more than a flare, or stomach virus is suspected:

  1. Giardia/Cryptosporidium Ag

  2. C Diff Toxin B

  3. GI Pathogen Panel: Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, Vibrio, Yersinia, Norovirus, Rotavirus, E. coli Shiga Txn 1, E. coli Txn 2

(Click HERE to read more on these GI pathogens)

It's also incredibly important to get your blood drawn. Anything that's a bit wonky in your body, will show up in your blood. Here's another list of labs I typically have done:

  1. Comprehensive Metabolic Panel

  2. CBC Without Differential

  3. ESR

  4. C Reactive Protein

The last of my lab results trickled in late last night, and luckily this time, there was nothing remarkable. It in fact, was just a "stomach bug." In other cases, I haven't been as fortunate. Last summer, I had a nasty bout of C diff. I picked it up during a hospital stint I had. It's ultra contagious, so I had to use a separate toilet, triple wash my hands, and disinfect.......and then burn everything. Kidding, it's just incredibly contagious, so you catch my drift. If you've ever had it, you know how awful it is. That being said, it's so critical to pay attention to your symptoms. Something that might start out as a small stomach cramp and/or intermittent diarrhea, could turn into a life threatening situation. Time is of the essence when it comes to your health. The faster you act, the sooner you will get answers, and the better you will start to feel.

"It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold or silver"

-Mahatma Gandhi

Alice is feeling good, and fever free!

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