Gastroenteritis involves tenderness of the gastrointestinal tract. The condition is often referred as the “stomach flu” even if it is not directly linked to influenza.
The condition can be brought about by viruses, bacteria or parasites. The viral type is considered contagious and responsible for most outbreaks in developed countries.
The usual routes of infection include:
- Contaminated water
- Food particularly seafood
- Dirty utensils
- Unwashed hands
- Contact with an infected individual
In poorly developed countries, gastroenteritis often spreads via contaminated water or food.
The main indication of gastroenteritis is diarrhea. Once the colon is infected, it loses its capability to hold fluids which causes the feces to become watery or loose.
Other symptoms that might arise include:
- Abdominal cramping or pain
- Poor feeding among infants
- Clammy skin
- Excessive sweating
- Unintentional weight loss
- Muscle pain or stiff joints
Since the symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting can cause the body to become dehydrated rapidly, it is vital to monitor for the indications of dehydration such as:
- Dry skin
- Excessive thirst
- Dark-colored urine or reduced amount
- Dry mouth
- Sunken eyes or cheeks
- Dry diaper among infants for more than 4-6 hours
Management of gastroenteritis
The vital point in managing gastroenteritis is the replacement of fluids and electrolytes lost due to vomiting and diarrhea.
Foods that contain electrolytes and complex carbohydrates including potatoes, lean meats as well as whole grains can replace the nutrients. Electrolyte and fluid replacement solutions can be bought in drug stores or groceries. In case hospitalization is needed, the nutrients are replaced intravenously.
Several measures should be observed to minimize the risk for developing gastroenteritis such as:
- Regularly wash hands especially after using the bathroom and when preparing food
- All kitchen surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected particularly when handling eggs or raw meat
- Make sure that raw meat, eggs and poultry are stored separately from foods that are consumed raw
- When travelling, only drink bottled water and avoid ice cubes especially in developing countries.