Commonly referred to as the stomach flu, gastroenteritis is any disturbance of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract that results in the inability to keep foods “down” or circulating in your system. It is caused by an inflammation of the stomach lining, caused by various viruses or bacteria, not to be confused with the influenza virus or with parasitic infections. The virus may last up to 10 days, but most GI disorders are clear within one to three days.
- Diarrhea that is watery and persistent
- Nausea and vomiting
- Headache, fever and abdominal cramps might accompany one or both
Who is at risk?
All people are susceptible to GI infections, but those at greatest risk are those who are not able to care for themselves, such as infants, children and the physically impaired. The greatest risk is dehydration from loss of fluids. Those who are unable or unwilling to take in proper fluids will have to be hospitalized for proper treatment. The disease is spread through contact with certain viruses, contaminated food and beverage products, close contact with others experiencing the illness, and contact with infected bodily fluids.
The most important treatment is hydration. The best way to stay hydrated is through regular consumption of water. Gatorade or other electrolyte containing drinks may also be useful. Avoid milk and fruit juice as they may make the situation worse. In general, water is best, but use whatever you or the patient can tolerate. There is a licensed rotavirus vaccine that protects against severe cases in infants and children that doctors might recommend, but generally the treatment is to let the virus run its course with proper hydration. In cases of extreme fluid loss, a doctor might admit the patient to the emergency department or hospital for intravenous (IV) fluids. Medications to lessen your symptoms of nausea could also be helpful and can be prescribed by your physician.
Emergency Warning Signs: When should I see a doctor?
See a doctor if the patient is unable to keep fluids down or of blood turns up in vomit or bowel movements. Increasing fever and severe abdominal pain are other persistent symptoms that should be evaluated by a doctor.
Treatment for Gastroenteritis is available now at Omni-Med in Florham Park, NJ.
For more information on Gastroenteritis, see the following websites:
Viral Gastroenteritis information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The Truth About Stomach Flu, by Kathleen Doheny on WebMD.com
12 Tips to Prevent Viruses from Spreading, by Morgan Griffin on WebMD.com
Disclaimer: The links above are to sites independent of omnimedmd.com. The pages will open in a new browser window. The information provided is for educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your doctor. Always follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding your specific medical questions, treatments, therapies, and other needs.