AskDocQ: What To Do If You’ve Got Tummy Troubles This Winter

A man clutches his stomach in pain and discomfort in this stock photo

No matter what time of year, there are always unpleasant tummy bugs doing the rounds, causing stomach cramps, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

There are a few different bugs that can cause this. If you’ve been around a few other people who have had the same illness, especially if it came with fevers and headaches, you’ve probably got viral gastroenteritis, which can last many days.

If your illness started within a few hours of eating restaurant or takeaway food, chances are you may have food poisoning, a bacterial illness which is caused by food which has spoiled. This usually gets better within 24 hours.

The treatment for gastro is to rest and keep drinking rehydration formula until it passes. The ones you can buy at the chemist are the best, but apple juice diluted 1 in 3 with water is a good alternative.

Avoid milk or solid food until your stomach is completely settled. Once you can stomach food, stick to plain things like unbuttered toast, crackers or boiled rice.

Taking a probiotic at this stage may help with recovery of your normal bowel bacteria.

There are some other bugs such as Giardia, Cryptosporidium and Shigella, which you may be more likely to be exposed to if you’re a man who has sex with men.

They can be passed on by sex, oral sex, rimming and kissing. Some of these infections are self-limiting (they get better without treatment), but they can linger on causing symptoms like diarrhoea and excess wind. Sometimes they may cause rectal bleeding.

If they are not getting better then you will need a specific antibiotic treatment. Your doctor will need you to provide a faecal sample so that the lab can work out which bug it is.

If your symptoms are not getting better after a few days or if you get bleeding when you go to the toilet, a trip to the doctor may be in order.

Remember though, the basic treatment for gastro is to rest and try and keep up your fluids. And don’t forget to wash your hands to avoid passing it on!

Dr Fiona Bisshop specialises in LGBT health. Read more by Dr Bisshop on her website here or contact her on Twitter. Send your health question to and Dr Bisshop will answer them anonymously in QNews Magazine.

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