Gastroenteritis – Causes, Sign & Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment

Having that road side pani poori might sound a very tempting idea but resist, refrain and move on. That’s possibly where you might contract an unpleasant condition of gastroenteritis.
Watery stools, abdominal cramping, and uncontrollable puking – now that’s clearly a case of your stomach being truly upset. Read on to know how and why you develop it.What the disease is like?Also known as gastric flu or stomach infection, gastroenteritis causes inflammation in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. As a result of ingested micro organism, the stomach and small intestines get affected and become inflamed, resulting in acute diarrhoea, abdominal pain and vomiting.The usual culprit is contaminated food and unclean water infected by bacteria, viruses, toxins and parasites.Causes:

  • Microorganisms like bacteria (E. Coli, salmonella, shigella etc), viruses, parasites, protozoans are the major causative organisms.
  • Improperly prepared or stale food, reheated meats, contaminated dairy/bakery items and sea foods.
  • Poor sanitation.
  • Chemical toxins which are most often found in seafood, heavy metals, food allergies, certain antibiotics and other medications can also cause this condition.
  • Some travellers to foreign countries may experience “traveller’s diarrhoea” from contaminated food and unclean water of that particular region.

Sign and symptoms: Symptoms for gastroenteritis can range from being mild to severe, depending upon the person’s immunity and ability to fight the infection. Some of the common signs and symptoms could be:

  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Low grade fever (99°F) with fatigue
  • Diarrhoea. Severity and number of loose stool can vary and range from 2-4 stools per day.
  • Abdominal cramp, belching and painful bloating
  • Vomiting, which may or may not accompany loose stools
  • Dehydration in cases of frequent episodes of loose stools

More severe symptoms:

  • Fever above 101°F
  • Blood in vomiting or stool
  • Continues or frequent vomiting
  • Symptoms of dehydration like little to no urination, extreme thirst, dizziness, and dry mouth

If the above are present, immediate seek medical help. Treatment: Treatment given in the cases of gastroenteritis is mostly symptomatic.

  • Use of antibiotic is not preferred until a specific bacteria is identified by lab testing as antibiotics given indiscriminately can further irritate the lining of stomach and worsen the infection.
  • Plenty of fluids in form of ORS or homemade salt-sugar solution need to be given to keep in check electrolyte imbalance.
  • If fluids are not being taken by mouth due to excessive vomiting, an IV line needs to be placed to combat dehydration.
  • Oral anti emetics and antipyretics can be taken to alleviate nausea and fever.
  • Soft bland diet is recommended once vomiting stops.

Prevention: Follow the important tips for preventing stomach infection:

  • Cook in clean utensils
  • Always wash your hands before and after making food
  • Rinse vegetables and fruits thoroughly
  • Clean the cutting/chopping board with soap and water before and after every use, especially when using it for meat and seafood
  • Avoid consuming stale food that has not been kept in refrigerator
  • Try to avoid street food