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Gastroenteritis

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Sometimes attributed to "food poisoning" or called, "stomach flu", gastroenteritis pertains to the irritation and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract which consists of the stomach and the intestines. Because this is usually caused by infections, its severity can be related to your ability to combat infection. Some people tend to recover from this illness faster than others. Also, since people who experience this ailment tend to excrete a lot of fluids either through vomitting or loose bowel movement, there is a danger of losing electrolytes and becoming prone to dehydration which is a life-threatening illness.

GASTROENTERITIS CAUSES

The most common causes of gastroenteritis is the presence of viruses and bacteria. Both may enter your body from the food you eat or contact with other people who have the illness. Also, these infectious agents can be caused by something in your body if you have an abnormal condition. This can happen when you drink antacids or any medication that can alter the acidity of your stomach.

If the gastroenteritis is caused by the presence of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, then the illness can last around a week or more. Common forms of bacteria that cause this illness are escherichia choli, salmonella and campylobacter. Escherichia coli, also known as Traveler's diarrhea, can come from unclean food and water. Salmonella, on the other hand, is more dangerous because it causes typhoid fever. It can be acquired from holding poultry or reptiles that have a lot of germs. Campylobacter can enter your body through undercooked meat and unpasteurized milk.

When the gastroenteritis is caused by a virus, then it will only take 1 to 2 days to recover from it. 30 to 40% of the viral cases of gastroenteritis usually involve children. Because of the close contact between children in daycare and pre-schools, the spread of this virus can be quite fast. The common viruses that cause gastroenteritis are: adenoviruses, rotaviruses, calciviruses, astroviruses and norvirus.

Other causes of gastroenteritis are parasites and protozoans. These organisms may enter your body by drinking contaminated water. Toxins that can be found in sea food, heavy metals and medications can also be te cause of gastroenteritis.

GASTROENTERITIS SYMPTOMS

A person suffering from gastroenteritis commonly experiences a low grade fever that is accompanied by nausea with or without vomiting and mild to moderate diahrrea which means that the patient will release two to four loose stools per day. The patient will also experience some cramps and bloating. These symptoms can be alleviated by rest and the replenishment of fluids.

Unfortunately, gastroenteritis can also be accompanied by serious symptoms that need medical attention. One of them is having a fever that is higher than 101 degrees Farenheit. This makes monitoring the patient's temperature very important. Other symptoms that require medical care are spots of blood in the vomit or stool, swelling or pain in the right lower part of the abdomen and dehydration which can be monitored by knowing the frequency of the patient’s urination.
gastroenteritis
Image: Gastroenteritis


Also, if the patient doesn't show any of these symptoms but look weak and dizzy or appear sleepy and unaware, you should take him or her to a doctor. He or she may already be suffering from dehydration.

In cases wherein you need to see a physician, make sure that you have the following information at hand: the day when the illness began, what you ate and if you were in contact with a person who had the same symptom. This will help him pinpoint the cause of your illness.

GASTROENTERITIS PREVENTION

The first thing that you should be concerned about when you have this problem is dehydration. In order to prevent youself from getting dehydrated or losing a lot of electrolytes, you should make sure that you drink some oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte, Rehydrate, Resol and Rice-Lyte. Plain water is not enough because it cannot replace the electrolytes that you've lost. It may even decrease the concentration of electrolytes in your body which may cause seizures later on.

Children ages two years and below should be given around 1 to 3 ounces of rehydration solution every time he or she releases a loose stool. Children who are older should be given 3 to 8 ounces in order to prevent dehydration. Adults, on the other hand, should drink this solution as much as possible.

If you can't find some rehydration solution, you can make your own mixture by combining 2 tablespoons of sugar or honey, 1/4 teaspoon of table salt, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 liter clean water. If you don't have any baking soda at home, you can just double the amount of table salt in the mixture.

At first, it can be difficult to eat because of your illness. During the first twenty-four hours, you can stay off food in order to allow your stomach to settle down. After this period, you should start forcing yourself to eat some bland foods like bananas, rice, applesauce without sugar, toast, potatos or pasta. This is also called the BRAT diet.

GASTROENTERITIS TREATMENT

In order to relieve yourself from the symptoms and be able to get some well-needed rest, you can take some acetaminophen or Tylenol if you don’t have any liver problems. If you don’t know what is causing your gastroenteritis, do not take any antibiotics. These can worsen the infection or make them last longer. If you’ve gone through some laboratory tests and it has been found out that one of these bacteria: Campylobacter, Shigella, and Vibrio cholerae is causing the disease then you would be asked to drink some antibiotics by your physician.

In order to stop you from vomiting, you may also drink some antiemetics like promathazine, prochorperazine or ondanestron. These medications are not recommended for children though. Also, since your gastroenteritis may be caused by a toxin that your body is trying to eliminate, doctors do not usually recommend taking in some antidiarrheal medications because you need to clear your body of this toxin by releasing it through your stools and vomit. But, if the doctor allows you to take in some, he will recommend over-the-counter medications such as diphenoxylate atropine or loperamide.
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