It’s one of those gut related infections which can cause havoc to your life. If you’ve experienced diarrhoea accompanied by vomiting, you may have had a case of gastroenteritis. It leaves you exhausted, weak and dehydrated.
What exactly is Gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis in simple terms is an infection of the intestines which causes diarrhoea, accompanied by abdominal pain and vomiting.
Gastro: Refers to the stomach
Ente: Refers to the small intestine
Ritis: Refers to Inflammation
The severity of a gastroenteritis infection can extend from a mildly upset stomach to a severe case of diarrhoea, accompanied vomiting and abdominal pain which lasts for several days.
Here is a short video which will make it really clear to you:
What are the Symptoms of Gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis symptoms are quite common and can be easily identified.
Generally the diarrhoea will be accompanied by some or most of the following:
Shivering and chills
These gastroenteritis symptoms normally appear in 12 to 48 hours of exposure to contaminants and will last for around 1 to 3 days. In some cases they can last longer. If the symptoms persist, a doctor may request patients for a stool sample to detect the presence of norovirus or rotavirus as the cause.
In most common cases, gastroenteritis is caused by a virus such as adenovirus and norovirus. These viruses are easily spread by human contact, especially after leaving the toilet. When infected persons touch the surface of objects in the toilet, the virus is transmitted to these objects and eventually to other users.
Outbreaks of a gastroenteritis virus can also be caused by infected persons preparing food for mass consumption such as hospitals, restaurants, schools or nursing homes.
Gastroenteritis due to food poisoning is caused by different kinds of microbes. Some common types are Salmonella, Campylobacter, and E. coli.
In some cases toxins produced by bacteria can cause food poisoning as can parasites or water which is contaminated by bacteria or microbes. This is one of the reasons why it is important to take added precaution when visiting countries which have poor sanitation.
Rotavirus is a leading cause of gastroenteritis among children, especially infants aged, 3 to 15 months. Symptoms generally appear between 1 and 3 days after exposure. Watery diarrhoea and vomiting for 3 to 7 days, accompanied by abdominal pain is usually what is experienced. It also infects adults in close contact with children who may have been infected, although the symptoms are milder.
Caliciviruses can infect people of all ages. The most common of these is Norovirus. It is also the most common cause of gastroenteritis among adults. Norovirus outbreaks can occur any time of the year, but are more common in the months of October to April. Typical symptoms are diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps, headache, fatigue and muscle aches. The symptoms normally appear a day or two after exposure and lasts between 1 to 3 days.
Adenovirus has 49 strains and infects children mainly younger than two years of age. Only one of the strains affects the gastrointestinal tract, causing diarrhoea and vomiting. Symptoms appear after 8 to 10 days of exposure and can last for 5 to 12 days. Adenovirus gastroenteritis infections can occur all year-round.
Astrovirus mostly infects young children and infants, but adults also can sometimes get infected. This virus causes diarrhoea and vomiting. Gastroenteritis symptoms generally appear between 3 to 4 days after someone is exposed to the virus and can last from 3 to 7 days. The symptoms are much milder than those of rotavirus or norovirus infections. While Astrovirus infections can occur all year round, it is most prevalent during winter.
In most cases gastroenteritis viruses disappears on its own within a few days. If you’re reading this thinking whether you will be prescribed antibiotics, it’s unlikely because antibiotics are ineffective in treating gastroenteritis.
So is there another option?
Many people are now turning to enemas to clear up their insides. They not only get rid of toxins from the body, but also help in keeping the gut clean so you feel more energetic and healthy.
Check out this interesting article about “How to Stop Diarrhoea Fast With Enemas.”
Enemas have been used to treat diarrhoea since the ancient times. There are many types of enema such as Epsom salt enemas, yogurt enemas and coffee enemas to name a few. Coffee enemas are nowadays increasing in popularity and are helpful in treating diarrhoea in some cases.
If you succumb to gastroenteritis, it’s a good idea to alter your diet until the symptoms ease and you’ve completely recovered.
Avoid fatty and oily food, dairy products, sugary sweets, alcohol and caffeine.
Diarrhoea causes the body to get severely dehydrated and it’s important to replenish fluids by regularly drinking water or other clear liquid to replace electrolytes.
Drink a minimum of 200 ml each time you have the diarrhoea. This should be in addition to what you normally drink.
If the diarrhoea is accompanied by vomiting, then wait for 5 to 10 minutes before you start to drink and start with a few sips every 3 minutes or so. However if you’re living in hot weather conditions, you may need to increase your fluid intake.
When you feel sufficiently recovered to start eating again, start with food that’s easy to digest such as cereal, toast, bread, rice, lean meat, bananas and other fruits.
Take particular care of infants as their body is of a smaller size and dehydrates very quickly as a result of diarrhoea and vomiting.
Apart from this, it’s also important to get plenty of rest.
While gastroenteritis complications are uncommon, they mostly occur in young children, the elderly and pregnant women. Complications are more likely to occur if a person has a pre-existing chronic condition such as diabetes or is taking medication to treat long-term illnesses such as cancer.
The most common complications are electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. Frequent diarrhoea and vomiting leads to loss of water, which needs to be quickly replaced to prevent dehydration.
Severe dehydration leads to reduced blood pressure which slows down blood flow to the vital organs. If left untreated, it could lead to kidney failure. Severely dehydrated people may need to be admitted to a local hospital for fluid replenishment through a drip.
The infection is largely constricted to the intestines and very rarely spreads to other parts of the body. If the infection spreads to other parts it can lead to arthritis, eye inflammation and skin. However such conditions are rare and are more likely if the gastroenteritis is due to Salmonella.
Gastroenteritis can sometimes trigger irritable bowel syndrome and lactose intolerance.
If the intestinal lining gets damaged due to gastroenteritis, it leads to a lack of the lactase enzyme which is required to help the body digest lactose present in milk. Lactose intolerance causes bloating, tummy abdominal pain, watery stools and wind after drinking milk. The condition is most common in children and improves when the infection ends and the intestinal lining heals.
Another potential but rare complication is called Haemolytic Uraemic syndrome. It is usually linked to gastroenteritis caused by a type of E. coli infection. This is a condition with anaemia, a low platelet count in blood and kidney failure. If the condition is recognised and treated early, recovery is quick and complete.
Preventing the Spread of Infection
Since Gastroenteritis is contagious, it’s wise to follow a few common sense practices to control the spread of infection.
Here are some recommendations:
Wash hands thoroughly after visiting the toilet preferably using liquid soap and warm water. Dry your hands completely once they have been washed.
Keep your towels separate from the rest of your family members.
Avoid cooking or serving food to others. If you work in the food and hospitality industry, inform your superiors and leave the area immediately.
Disinfect and clean your toilet regularly with a good quality disinfectant. Wipe down areas which you touch such as the flush handle, taps and toilet seat. Keep a separate cloth for cleaning the toilet.
Stay home at least 48 hours after the last incidence of diarrhoea or vomiting.
Don’t use a swimming pool for at least two weeks after the last occurrence of diarrhoea
You’ve probably heard that prevention is better than cure, and by following good hygiene practices you can greatly reduce the risk of exposure to getting infected.
Here’s a short video explaining the steps you can take to minimise the risk of getting gastroenteritis.
Besides maintaining personal hygiene, make sure you store food properly, wash hands before and after handling food, after playing with pets and when you’re done with the gardening.
Also make sure food is properly cooked before you bring it to the table.
Gastroenteritis is both an emotionally and physically draining experience. It takes time for a person recovering from the condition to regain their strength and feel healthy.
Following simple hygiene, especially at home can minimise the risk of Gastroenteritis, however if symptoms persist, it’s always best to see a doctor for advice.
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