Gastroenteritis, commonly called the tummy flu is basically inflammation of the stomach and/or intestines. It’s a disease most commonly caused by viruses but can also be caused by some bacteria and rarely by parasites, antibiotics, and other medications.
Common viruses that cause gastroenteritis are
Most common bacteria that cause this disease are
Regardless of the cause the symptoms are the same
- Diarrhea (Loose watery stools)
- Abdominal cramps.
Other associated symptoms can be
- Body aches
The most serious consequence of gastroenteritis is dehydration caused by large amount of fluid loss in diarrhea and vomiting. This can be a particularly dangerous and even fatal in young children. In fact gastroenteritis is one of the leading causes of death among children under 5 years of age in developing countries. The most common reason is severe dehydration and failure of timely re-hydration therapy.
Watch out for signs of dehydration which include
- Extreme thirst
- Loss of skin turgor
- Dry mouth, lips and eyes
- Decreased urine
Treatment of gastroenteritis is aimed at prevention of dehydration. As mentioned above the most common cause is viral infection so antibiotics will not work in such cases. Plenty of oral fluid in take is at the heart of therapy. Oral re-hydration solutions (ORS) which are available over the counter must be consumed to replace electrolytes and minerals. Fruit juices and sports drinks are also helpful. Viral infections mostly resolve on their own within 3-5 days. If however the illness lasts longer and is associated with high grade fever, blood in stools, or severe dehydration then immediate medical attention must be sought. Bacterial or parasitic infections may require antibiotic therapy. Severe dehydration may require admission and intravenous fluid replacement.
Gastroenteritis can be prevented by taking following measures
- Hand washing with soap before eating food and after using toilet
- Avoid eating stale or reheated food
- Avoid eating undercooked food
- Washing fruits and vegetables before eating
For young children Rotavirus vaccine is available which gives immunity against the virus and is one of the most important tools in prevention of Rotavirus infection.
Seek immediate medical treatment if:
- Symptoms last more than 2 days
- Your are unable to keep fluids down
- You see blood or mucous in your stool
- You vomit red or black material
- You have a ever of 101°F (38.3°C) or greater
- You have localized or persistent abdominal pain
At Life Savers Emergency Room, we are fully equipped to diagnose and treat intestinal infections with our on site pharmacy, laboratory and X-ray department. We have radiology services on call 24/7 as well as surgical specialists on call for your care.*
Stay Healthy, Stay Safe