Gastroenteritis is basically an infection of the stomach and bowel. The common symptoms that can manifest include vomiting and repeated episodes of diarrhea. Take note that the causes and treatment for this condition tends to vary between children and adults.
Causes of gastroenteritis
For adults, the common causes of the condition are food poisoning and the norovirus. Always bear in mind that the infection disrupts one of the vital functions of the intestines, specifically the absorption of water from the contents of the intestines into the body.
This is the reason why the common symptom of gastroenteritis is watery diarrhea that eventually leads to dehydration.
How gastroenteritis spreads
Majority of cases of the condition are highly infectious and primarily spread when the bacteria present in feces are transferred to the mouth. Take note that bacteria can be transferred through poor hygienic practices especially if proper hand washing is not observed after using the toilet. Bacteria and viruses present on the hands will be transferred to any surface or object touched.
If the individual touches a contaminated object or if contaminated food is eaten, he/she becomes infected. Once infected, the symptoms of gastroenteritis will start. Take note that if the individual has gastroenteritis, he/she must not go to work until 48 hours after passing a normal stool.
When to consult a doctor
In most cases, gastroenteritis does not need to be diagnosed since the symptoms typically improve without treatment. In cases where the symptoms are severe or persist, the doctor will request for a stool sample so that it will be checked. If a parasite or bacteria is present, appropriate treatment is started.
In certain cases, urine and blood test might be required in order to rule out other conditions especially if the individual has symptoms that persist.
How gastroenteritis is treated
Most cases of gastroenteritis only have mild symptoms and eventually diminish a few days without requiring medical treatment. Nevertheless, medical care is needed if the symptoms are severe or if the individual has other illnesses. This is due to the fact that diarrhea can cause dehydration that can be lethal if not treated right away.
The best way to prevent dehydration from worsening is to replace the fluids lost through diarrhea and vomiting. You have to provide the individual with at least 2 liters of water a day and an additional of 200 ml of water after every episode of diarrhea.
Oral rehydration solutions can also be used especially for those who are susceptible to the effects of dehydration such as the elderly and those who have other illnesses.
Is it possible to prevent gastroenteritis?
Due to the infectious nature of gastroenteritis, there are steps to take into consideration to prevent it from spreading to others.
- Always wash hands properly after using the toilet and before preparing and eating food.
- When cleaning the toilet, include the seat and handle. Use a disinfectant after every episode of diarrhea or vomiting.
- Avoid sharing cutlery, towels and utensils with others.
Always bear in mind the proper hygienic measures must be observed at all times in order to prevent gastroenteritis. If you want to learn more about basic first aid and proper hygienic measures, you can enroll in a first aid class.