Gastroenteritis is an irritation of the stomach and intestines. There are many different types, including viral, bacterial, foodborne, parasitic, and chemical. It can be serious because it interrupts the flow of nutrients and fluids through your body. Read this article to learn how to recognize the symptoms, what you should do if you suspect that you have it and what treatments are available.
What is Gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis (GE) is a condition that causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines. The most common symptom of gastroenteritis is diarrhea, which can be accompanied by vomiting, abdominal pain, and fever. Gastroenteritis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection, but it can also be caused by a reaction to a food or medication. In most cases, gastroenteritis resolves on its own within a few days. However, some people may need to see our doctors for treatment.
What are the types of GE?
There are three types of gastroenteritis: viral, bacterial, and parasitic.
Viral gastroenteritis is the most common type and is usually caused by a virus such as the norovirus or rotavirus. It can be spread through contact with contaminated food or water, or by contact with someone who is already infected. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
Bacterial gastroenteritis is less common than viral gastroenteritis but can be more serious. It is usually caused by bacteria such as Salmonella, Shigella, or E. coli, often spread by consuming raw, unwashed, or improperly handled food. Bacterial gastroenteritis can be spread through contaminated food or water, poor hygiene while preparing food, or by contact with someone who is already infected. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and fever.
Parasitic gastroenteritis is the least common type and is usually caused by parasites such as Giardia lamblia or Cryptosporidium parvum. With this form of gastroenteritis, diarrhea is persistent and prolonged, and may last between several days up to 1-2 weeks. It can be spread through contaminated food or water, or by contact with someone who is already infected. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and weight loss.
To protect yourself or your family from diseases like GE, you may want to learn how EVA works.
What are the causes of Gastroenteritis?
Aside from the causes of gastroenteritis mentioned above, certain medications can also lead to gastroenteritis as a side effect. These include antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and chemotherapy drugs.
In most cases, gastroenteritis will resolve on its own within a few days. However, more severe cases may require hospitalization for hydration and treatment of any underlying infections.
What are the symptoms of GE?
The symptoms of gastroenteritis can vary depending on the cause, but typically include:
- Abdominal pain
- Dehydration, manifesting as dry skin, cracked lips, or a sunken appearance of the eyeballs
Gastroenteritis can be serious if left untreated, so it is important to seek medical attention if you or your child experience any of these symptoms.
How is GE treated?
Gastroenteritis is treated by replenishing fluids that are lost through vomiting and diarrhea. This is done by drinking clear fluids like water, broth, or electrolyte drinks. It is also important to avoid dehydration by drinking more fluids than usual. Gastroenteritis can also be treated with over-the-counter medicines like loperamide (Imodium) to help with diarrhea and antiemetics like meclizine (Dramamine) to help with nausea and vomiting. If these treatments are not effective, or if you have blood in your stool, severe abdominal pain, or a fever above 101°F (38.3°C), it is important to see a doctor as you may need antibiotics or other medication.
To prevent dehydration, patients with gastroenteritis can take a homemade oral rehydration solution made by mixing a liter of water with one teaspoon of salt and four teaspoons of sugar. This will replace lost electrolytes and aid absorption of food and water. For more information, consult our FAQs.
Who is more likely to get Gastroenteritis and why?
Gastroenteritis is more likely to occur in people who have impaired immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or cancer. Other risk factors include age (children and older adults are more susceptible), poverty, and travel to developing countries. The reason why these groups are more at risk is that they are more likely to be exposed to contaminated food, water, or someone who is infected.
People with gastroenteritis often have diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In severe cases, hospitalization may be required. Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing dehydration.
How long does it take to recover from Gastroenteritis?
Most cases of gastroenteritis are mild and resolve on their own within a few days. However, some cases can be more severe and may require treatment. Recovery from gastroenteritis usually depends on the severity of the condition. For most people, recovery takes a few days to a week. However, some people may experience symptoms for longer periods of time.
What are the complications of Gastroenteritis?
The most common complication of gastroenteritis is dehydration. This happens when your body loses more fluids than it takes in and can’t replace them quickly enough. Dehydration can be especially dangerous for young children and older adults, who are more likely to experience serious health problems as a result. Other complications of gastroenteritis include:
- Electrolyte imbalance: When you lose too much fluid through vomiting or diarrhea, your body’s electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride) can become imbalanced. This can lead to muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat, and other problems.
- Blood sugar abnormalities: Gastroenteritis can cause your blood sugar levels to drop dangerously low (hypoglycemia). This is more likely to occur if you have diabetes or another condition that affects blood sugar levels.
- Malnutrition: If you experience severe vomiting or diarrhea, you may not be able to absorb enough nutrients from food to meet your body’s needs. This can lead to malnutrition, which can weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to infection.
How EVA Teleconsult can help protect against gastroenteritis
EVA Teleconsult is always ready to help with almost any illness, including the various forms of gastroenteritis. That’s because all of our patients always receive the following:
- Timely appointments – No more time wasted while waiting outside a doctor’s office. With us, appointments begin right when they’re supposed to, even if they’re made the same day.
- Guaranteed 30-minute consultation times – No more rushing or quickly dashed off prescriptions with no explanations. Our doctors take the time needed to give you information about your concerns, and are open to answering all your questions.
- 5-star ratings for our doctors – Because our doctors know to explain things in a way patients can understand, we frequently get positive feedback from them.
Don’t wait for dehydration or complications to set in! Get the treatment you or your loved one need and book an online consultation today.