What is Gastroenteritis?

What is Gastroenteritis?

Most people have heard of the stomach flu. Typically when a person has a bout of vomiting and diarrhea this is what it is referred to as, but in all reality it cannot be labeled as the flu. The proper name you are looking for is Gastroenteritis.

When classifying this illness it can be both a bacterial or a viral infection. Gastroenteritis is the inflammation of the digestive tract, including the stomach and the intestines.

Main Symptoms

  • Stomach Pain
  • Vomiting/Nausea
  • Diarrhea/Watery stool

Secondary Symptoms

  1. Cramping
  2. Fever
  3. Headache

How Gastroenteritis is Contracted

There are two main types of Gastroenteritis as mentioned above, viral and bacterial. More often than not, gastroenteritis is caused by a type of virus. Typically the virus is spread by coming into contact with a person who is ill with this type of virus, through water or food which has been contaminated, or unwashed hands after coming in contact with fecal matter.

There are two main forms of viral infections which can cause the stomach flu, norovirus and rotavirus.

In infants and young children rotavirus is the world’s leading culprit when it comes to young child and infant diarrhea. It is important to keep your little one home from school or daycare until the illness has run its course to reduce the bug from spreading.

Foodborne illness and the most serious cases of gastroenteritis in the United States are caused by the Norovirus.

These two viruses are the leading causes of Viral Gastroenteritis.

There are several types of bacteria which can lead to Bacterial Gastroenteritis. The main culprits are Salmonella and E. coli. These types of bacterial infections are spread through ingesting food that has been undercooked, such as eggs or chicken. Salmonella can also be spread through coming in contact with live poultry or handling reptilian pets.

Treatments for Gastroenteritis

Both Viral and Bacterial Gastroenteritis can be treated at home with the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast). The addition of beverages which contain potassium are also helpful. Serious cases are typically admitted for inpatient treatment at a hospital. Your physician is likely to prescribe IV fluids to rehydrate you and in the worst cases, antibiotics.

Things To Watch Out For

Dehydration is a serious side effect of Gastroenteritis, especially in children. While experiencing “the stomach flu” be sure you take notice if your child begins to display any of the symptoms for this side effect. Dry mouth,dry skin, and extreme thirst can be signs of dehydration. If you have an infant fewer wet diapers can also be a sign of dehydration.

Another symptom of dehydration is feeling lightheaded or dizziness. Be sure to contact your Family Physician if these symptoms occur. In some cases your child’s doctor may prescribe medication to reduce the vomiting and diarrhea, but it is rare for children 5 and under.


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