You must be quite familiar with the words “Diarrhea”, “Vomiting”, and “upset stomach”, and these are also known to be part of Stomach flu. The stomach and intestines undergo inflammation in this condition due to bacterial infection. Moreover, these symptoms are medically known as Gastroenteritis. It can also occur due to viral and parasitic infections in your digestive tract.
Gastroenteritis affects a child and the elderly much more severely than a healthy adult. Moreover, it can turn life-threatening if the gastroenteritis symptoms are overlooked.
Let’s get to know about Gastroenteritis causes and symptoms and treatment to prevent it. This will help you to get a better understanding of when to consult with a medical specialist.
Symptoms of Gastroenteritis
Gastroenteritis can affect you irrespective of age. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever, abdominal pain, nausea, mild fever, loss of appetite, muscle ache, incontinence, inability to eat properly, general weakness of the body and headache.
Suppose these symptoms continue for a long time. In that case, it can lead to dehydration, dry skin, dry mouth, feeling thirsty all the time, problems in urination, urine is dark in color, unable to urinate for more than 8 hours, cold hands and feet and sunken eyes and cheeks. You might get the feeling of nauseated, lightheaded, lethargic, dizzy, etc.
Dehydration can affect a child more quickly than an adult. Most often, small children are unable to convey the gastroenteritis symptoms. So, you need to look for the signs, check the diapers and stay aware.
These symptoms start appearing within 3 days of getting affected and can last for more than 10 days, depending on the infection range (mild to severe). The symptoms can go beyond control, including vomiting, constant body ache and bloody stool.
Thus, you must immediately consult a doctor to get proper treatment before it gets severe. Otherwise, the patient might have to be hospitalized to retrieve the lost fluid.
Causes of Gastroenteritis
Rotavirus and norovirus are the two specific causes of Gastroenteritis. There are several ways through which Gastroenteritis can get spread:
- If you intake contaminated food and water, the virus is generally foodborne.
- If you come in contact with a person affected by the virus.
- Dirty or unwashed hands after the use of the toilet.
Other than viruses, bacteria such as E.coli, Shigella, and Salmonella can also trigger Gastroenteritis. And, the ways you can get infected are:
- If you have undercooked poultry items, then the chances of the disease increase.
- If you do not wash the bed covers, change the bedsheets from time to time.
- Not washing hands before consuming any food with bare hands.
- In case you come in contact with an infected person at an office or daycare center (for children)
Gastroenteritis can also occur due to parasite infection, such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium, and they spread through:
- These parasites can be present in a contaminated swimming pool.
- There are chances of stomach flu if your drinking water is contaminated.
- If you eat unwashed fruits or vegetables.
There are certain unusual ways, too, through which you might get infected by Gastroenteritis, such as:
- Eating too much citrus food
- Eating seafood that might have toxins.
- Laxatives, chemotherapy drugs, allergic to antibiotics, etc.
Who gets most affected by Gastroenteritis?
Anybody can suffer from Gastroenteritis, but few specific individuals come directly under the risk radar.
- Infants and children get affected easily due to their pre-developing immunity system or under-developing immunity.
- The elderly can also experience stomach flu due to reduced immunity power with age.
- Individuals working in nursing centers or hospitals deal with gastroenteritis patients and are usually in direct contact with the infected person.
- Students who live in hostels or dormitories can experience a sudden outbreak of Gastroenteritis.
- Children who attend daycare or school can get affected if other students already suffer from Gastroenteritis.
- Individuals intaking immunosuppressant medicines due to auto-immune disease mostly get infected easily.
- Patients who are suffering from HIV/AIDS or going through chemotherapy.
How to prevent Gastroenteritis?
As we know, prevention is better than cure. So, if you see the preliminary signs of Gastroenteritis, your first step should be to prevent dehydration. You must take oral rehydration and start drinking clear fluids. This should be done slowly but frequently, as too much can make you feel nauseated.
You must check your diet and eat easy-to-digest food, such as bananas, toast, chicken, rice, etc. During this phase, you must avoid aerated drinks, caffeine, alcohol, and dairy products altogether.
Other than this, maintain hygiene, wash your hands before cooking or eating, sanitize the kitchen more often, change your bedsheets daily, and wash dirty clothes every day.
You must stay away from work or try working from home if there have been symptoms of Gastroenteritis among your colleagues until the situation improves. If there have been stomach flu symptoms at daycare or school, keep your children away for a few days.
Medical Treatment for Gastroenteritis
The doctor would first confirm the cause of the Gastroenteritis, whether it is bacterial, viral or due to parasites. This is done by examining stool or feces samples and conducting a blood test and physical examination. Now, depending on the results, and gastroenteritis symptoms treatment is prescribed.
- Put restrictions on certain foods such as dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, seasoned food, and sugary items.
- Advising to drink plenty of liquid, either in the form of soup, broth, sports drinks, and rehydration formulas. These are easily available at your nearby pharmacy.
- Prescribing to avoid medicines such as antibiotics, aspirin, ibuprofen or any kind of pain relief drug.
- Medication for fever and pain is prescribed, which is generally paracetamol. Along with that, antidiarrheal medications are advised, including Imodium.
- For children, there are vaccinations that can prevent stomach flu due to rotavirus. Oral vaccination helps to reduce the severity of rotavirus. Your doctor will be able to help with the proper guidance.
It is always advised not to go for over-the-counter medicines as it can lead to severe abdominal pain and worsen the condition if you intake the wrong dose of a drug. So, get an appointment with certified doctors at ILS Hospitals who are there to assist you around the clock through high-end medical facilities.