In this article we discuss the causes, symptoms and treatment of stomach flu. Make sure not to miss out on the short video on self care at the end.
Gastroenteritis, also known as infectious diarrhea, is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that involves the stomach, small and large bowel.
It is a very common condition that causes diarrhea and vomiting that can last a few days. It affects people of all ages.
What causes gastroenteritis?
Viruses and bacteria are the primary causes of gastroenteritis. Transmission may occur via consumption of contaminated water or food or via person-to-person spread. Transmission rates are related to poor hygiene, in crowded households and in those with poor nutritional status.
There are a number of non-infectious causes. Some of the more common include medications like Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen. Certain foods such as lactose (in those who are intolerant) and gluten (in those with celiac disease) can also cause gastroenteritis.
Diseases secondary to toxins (food poisoning) and Crohn`s disease are also non-infectious sources of gastroenteritis.
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms usually begin 12-72 hours after contracting infectious agents.
- Sudden diarrhea
- Projectile vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- Muscle pain
Treatment and management of gastroenteritis
Gastroenteritis is usually an acute and self-limiting disease that does not require medication.
The preferred treatment in those with mild to moderate dehydration is oral rehydration therapy. This is preferably achieved by drinking rehydration solution although intravenous therapy may be required in severe dehydration. Oral rehydration solution should be taken in small, frequent amounts. Starting with 5ml every 5 minutes and increasing gradually as tolerated.
If you feel like eating, try small amounts of plain foods, such as soup, bananas, potatoes, rice, apples or toast. Some probiotics are beneficial in reducing the duration of the illness and the frequency of stools. Fermented milk products such as yogurt are similarly beneficial.
Ask your pharmacist or health care provider for advice on antiemetics (for treatment of vomiting) and antimotility agents (antidiarrheal)
Get plenty of rest.
Gastroenteritis can spread easily, so good hygiene must be practiced.