Gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu, is an inflammation of the body’s gastrointestinal tract, which includes the intestines, stomach, esophagus and mouth. This tract is responsible for the digestion of food we take. Although this is a very common illness and it clears up even without medical treatment, it can be serious in infants and the elderly.
Causes of Gastroenteritis
The inflammation may be caused by bacterial, viral or parasitic infections. In developed countries, the majority of the outbreaks are caused by viral gastroenteritis, the highly contagious type. Bacterial gastroenteritis is more common in developing countries. It is spread through contaminated water and food.
Here are some of the common routes of the infection.
Food, especially seafood
Contact with an infected patient
Diarrhea is the primary symptom of gastroenteritis. This is because when the large intestine becomes infected, it is unable to retain fluids. Some of the other common symptoms are:
nausea or vomiting
fever or excessive sweating
incontinence or loss of stool control
People who have gastroenteritis may become dehydrated very quickly because of vomiting and diarrhea. Aside from the symptoms above, you should also watch for dehydration signs including:
darker or yellowish urine
dry mouth and skin
sunken eyes and cheeks
Usually, the body can fight off this disease on its own. However, it wouldn’t hurt if your body can fight to eliminate the symptoms faster. The number one thing to consider in gastroenteritis treatment is replacing the lost fluids and electrolytes due to dehydration (vomiting and diarrhea). This is why you should eat foods that contain complex carbohydrates and electrolytes such as lean meats and potatoes. You can also purchase fluid and electrolyte replacement solutions at drug stores.
Antibiotics can only help when the cause of the inflammation is a bacterial infection. Taking antidiarrheal medications such as Loperamide is also not recommended because they tend to prolong the symptoms and the infection, especially in children.
If you suspect your baby or an elderly relative has gastroenteritis, it is best to seek medical attention because it can be dangerous. Their bodies might be unable to battle the infection on its own.
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