When a person has diarrhea and vomiting, he or she might say that they have the stomach flu. These signs are usually caused by a condition called Gastroenteritis. In gastroenteritis, the intestines get inflamed and irritated. It is commonly caused by a viral or bacterial infection.
The major signs and symptoms of Gastroenteritis include vomiting and diarrhea. A person might also have a fever, cramping, stomach pain, headache, and nausea. Because of vomiting and diarrhea, a person can also become dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include dry skin, feeling light-headed, frequent thirst or having a dry mouth leading to overall weakness and drop-in blood pressure. Gastroenteritis also attacks the intestines. Depending on the cause, these signs and symptoms may become visible in less than one to three days after a person is infected and could range from mild to severe.
There are many ways through which Gastroenteritis can develop and spread. They include contaminated food or water, physical contact with the person who is infected with a virus or bacteria, not using soap after changing the diaper or using the washroom, coming in direct contact with human excreta, etc. The most common cause of gastroenteritis in children is being infected with Rotavirus. This infection is usually caused when they put the contaminated objects or their fingers into their mouth. Grown-ups infected with Rotavirus might not have symptoms as compared to infants or children but carry the virus with them.
Another possibility is the infection with norovirus in both children and grown-ups which is the common reason for foodborne illness worldwide. The norovirus infection could sweep through families and communities. In most cases, a person picks up the virus from polluted water or food. Person-to-person transmission is possible.
Gastroenteritis affects people of every age, background and race all over the world. People who might be prone to gastroenteritis include young children because of their weaker immune system, older adults who take care for the sick, people who interact with the sick individuals like nurses or pathologists, or adults having a weak immune system due to some disease.
Gastroenteritis is diagnosed based on the symptoms. Physical examination and stool tests are used to determine the type of infection.
When caused by bacteria, antibiotics can be used for treatment but in the case of viral Gastroenteritis, there is no cure available. Viral Gastroenteritis just settles back to normal on its own. For recovery, one should follow the diet plan as prescribed by the doctor which includes very light solid food and fluids only to relieve the stomach from unnecessary burden for some time. Analgesics can also be prescribed. For prevention of Gastroenteritis, maintaining good hygiene and vaccination are the most useful options.
Though there are various treatment options for Gastroenteritis, it is always advisable to consult a doctor before going for any treatment.