What Is Gastroenteritis? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

The stomach is often referred to as “stomach flu”, although it is not a type of flu at all. Instead, it is an inflammation of the lining of your intestines.

Most often a virus is the culprit, in which case the disease is known as viral gastroenteritis.

Occasionally, bacteria, parasites or other causes can cause gastritis, according to Merck Manual. (1)

Avoiding contaminated food and water, as well as washing your hands, can help protect you from this unwanted condition.

Types of Gastroenteritis

In the United States, viruses are the most common cause of gastritis. (1) Many viruses can cause gastrointestinal tract, including:

According to the Mayo Clinic, the norovirus affects both children and adults and is the most common cause of foodborne illness in the world. (2) Most of the time, the virus is caused by contaminated water or food. It spreads rapidly, especially in confined spaces. You may have heard of norovirus infecting passengers on cruise ships. Outbreaks appear to be exacerbated during nursing homes and other places where people are in close contact. Symptoms usually last one to three days. (1.3)

Rotavirus is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in children. (2) It often affects children aged 3 to 15 months. Symptoms last for three to seven days. The virus is usually less severe when it affects adults. A vaccine against rotavirus is available in the United States. Since the introduction of the vaccine, there has been an 80% reduction in cases of rotavirus. (1.3)

Adenovirus This virus often infects children under 2 years of age. Symptoms can last 5 to 12 days. (3)

Astroviruses are more likely to be present in newborns and young children, but it can infect anyone. It usually spreads orally and lasts for about three to four days. (1)

Gastrointestinal disease that is not caused by a virus can be caused.

Infections with the bacteria Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter, Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), and Escherichia coli (E. coli) sometimes cause gastritis. These bacteria can be spread by eating contaminated food or water. (1)

Most cases of parasitic gastroenteritis in parasites are caused by Giardia and Cryptosporidium, according to the Medical University of South Carolina. () These animals can be raised by drinking contaminated water or swimming in contaminated ponds.

Other causes Some medicines or chemical toxins, such as metals or plant substances, can cause gastroenteritis, although this is rare. (1)

Signs and Symptoms of Gastroenteritis

Gastrointestinal symptoms usually start one to two days after the virus enters your body, and may include: (3)

Watery diarrhea
Abdominal pain or cramps
To vomit
Muscle aches
It’s getting cold
Usually, these symptoms last for a day or two, but they can last up to 10 days. (2.3)

In some people, gastrointestinal symptoms increase at night. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this is because your immune system often becomes more active at night, releasing anti-inflammatory substances that cause inflammation and make you feel worse. (5)

Can You Have a Stomach Virus Without Vomiting or Diarrhea?

There may be a wide range of gastrointestinal symptoms, from mild stomach upset to severe vomiting and diarrhea. Some people can even catch and spread these viruses, which usually cause gastritis without any symptoms. (5)

Causes and Risk Factors of Gastroenteritis

Gastrointestinal disease is an infectious disease and is usually spread by it.

Eating contaminated food
Drinking contaminated water
Staying in close contact with an infected person
Using dirty dishes
The virus is often transmitted through the intestinal tract. This means that someone infected with the virus eats your food without washing your hands after using the bathroom. (2)

Gastrointestinal disease can affect anyone, but some people may be at higher risk, including:

Infants and young children’s immune systems are not fully developed, which puts them at risk for catching the virus.

Older people With your age, your immune system becomes less efficient.

People who live or visit group settings living in close circles with others can increase your risk of gastritis. Viruses and bacteria can cause damage in places such as schools, daycares, nursing homes, cruise ships and dorms.

People with a weakened immune system can compromise your immune system with some chronic diseases, such as the human immune virus (HIV), and make you more susceptible to gastrointestinal development. (2)

How Is Gastroenteritis Diagnosed?

Doctors usually diagnose the gastrointestinal tract by examining your symptoms and performing a physical examination.

Your healthcare provider may ask you questions such as:

When did your symptoms start?
Do your symptoms persist, or do they start and stop?
How severe are your symptoms?
Does everything you do improve or worsen your symptoms?
Do you have symptoms of dehydration?
Are you in contact with other people whose symptoms are similar to yours?
Your doctor may also order a quick stool test to see if you have norovirus or rotavirus. In addition, you may be asked to provide a stool sample to detect bacterial or parasitic infections. (2)

Sometimes, doctors order tests to look for symptoms in other diseases that can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). (5)

Duration of Gastroenteritis

The stomach usually comes on suddenly and sticks for only a short time. The illness usually lasts less than a week.

Most people will get better without any treatment. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), you may need some treatment if you have severe symptoms or dehydration. (6)

Treatment and Medication Options for Gastroenteritis

The stomach will usually run its course and go away on its own. There is no specific treatment for viral gastroenteritis.

If you have a bacterial infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics. (1.2)

Physicians usually do not recommend that you treat antidiarrheal drills as they can prolong the infection, especially in children. But these drugs can be helpful in some cases. (1)

Self-Care for Gastroenteritis

Some measures can help improve gastrointestinal symptoms and prevent dehydration. You can try:

Let your stomach understand. Taking a break from eating solid food for a few hours at a time can alleviate your stomach problems.

Avoid certain foods. Avoid caffeine. Wines; Dairy products; And fatty, sugary or spicy foods until you start to feel better.

Eating blended foods is less likely to irritate your digestive system than simple foods. Crackers, toast, bananas, gelatin, rice, potatoes, and chicken are some good choices.

Stay hydrated Try to drink plenty of fluids. You may want to suck ice chips or take a sip of water. Clear sodas, broths and non-caffeinated sports drinks can keep you hydrated. According to American Family Physician, children may need an oral rehydration solution, which is available at most pharmacies. ()) If you are breastfeeding or formula formula, feed the baby as usual.

Getting plenty of rest can zip up your energy. Rest as much as you can and get a good night’s sleep. (2)

Prevention of Gastroenteritis

Some precautions can reduce your chances of getting a stomach ache. These include:

Wash your hands often. Proper hygiene, which includes frequent hand washing, is a great way to avoid catching the virus. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after going to the bathroom and before eating or preparing food. Be sure to wash your feet under your nails, under your nails, and on the creases of your hands. Also, teach your children to wash their hands after using the toilet.

neat and clean. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wipe if you can’t wash your hands.

Keep areas clean. If the person you are living with has a gastrointestinal disease, be sure to disinfect all surfaces with a bleach-based cleanser. Try using a ratio of 2 cups of bleach in 1 gallon of water.

Avoid contaminated food or water. Don’t eat or drink anything that makes you sick, such as raw or lean meat. Use only pasteurized dairy products and apple juice. Rinse food thoroughly before preparing or eating.

Do not share personal items. Avoid drinking from the same glass, can, or bottle as others and sharing utensils or towels.

Stay away from others. If you know people are sick, try to keep your distance from them. If you are sick, stay away from people, and do not prepare food for anyone when you are sick or for two days thereafter.

Give drops to children. A vaccine is available in some countries, such as the United States, to protect children from rotavirus. It is usually administered during the first year of a child’s life.

Check your child’s day care facility. Make sure there are separate diaper changing and dining areas in the center. There should also be a sink for hand washing near the changing table. (2,5)

Tips to Prevent Gastroenteritis While Traveling

Many people develop gastritis when they visit other countries. This is usually because they drink unclean water or eat contaminated food. This is commonly called traveler’s diarrhea.

When you travel, use sealed, bottled water to clean and brush your teeth. Avoid ice cubes, as they may contain contaminated water.

Make sure to wash or clean your hands often when you are out and about.

Also, when it comes to these foods, keep them safe. It is a good idea to avoid raw foods, such as vegetables, peeled fruits and salads. Also keep lean meats and fish clean. (2)

Complications of Gastroenteritis

If you have an upset stomach, dehydration is the primary cause of anxiety. This happens when you lose a large amount of water, salts, and minerals.

Per Madeline Plus, dehydration symptoms may include: (8)

Very thirsty
Frequent urination
Dark urine
to pass out
Lack of energy
Pressed eyes
If children are dehydrated, they can:

Cry without tears
Keep your mouth and tongue dry
Do not keep wet diapers for three hours or more
Get a good night’s sleep
I have a fever
Especially being irritable
Severe dehydration can lead to organ damage, trauma, coma or even death. (6)

Sometimes severe dehydration may require hospitalization, so you may receive anesthesia (via IV). Infants, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are at higher risk of severe dehydration. (2)


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