Gastroenteritis

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gastroenteritis symptoms

About Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is an infection of the gut, and is commonly referred to as having a 'tummy bug'. The cause of infection can be bacterial (and may require antibiotics) but the majority of the cases in the UK are due to viral infections. 

Symptoms of Gastroenteritis

The symptoms of Gastroenteritis include

  • Diarrhoea, and people may have loose or watery stools as well as go to the toilet more often
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Crampy abdominal pains which may be relieved on passing stools
  • Fever, muscle aches and pains as well as headaches 
  • Blood in your stools 
  • In severe cases if dehydration occurs, the person may feel lethargic, sleepy, and unwell   
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As Gastroenteritis is caused by infections, viruses, bacteria, and parasites can all cause this. 

Viruses such as adenoviruses and the more severe noroviruses are the commonest in the UK. The spread of viral gastroenteritis is by the faecal - oral route, which means the virus is present on people's hands after they have been to the toilet and spreads onwards. 

Bacterial gastroenteritis is usually spread from eating food or drinking water infected with bacteria, i.e. food poisoning.

Parasitic gastroenteritis is less common in the UK, and also spreads by eating foods or drinking water contaminated by parasites which unfortunately in countries with poor sanitation can be the case. Therefore it is important to inform your doctor if you have recently travelled abroad with gastroenteritis. 

Prevention on Gastroenteritis includes

  • Good hand washing after using the toilet and before eating  
  • Drinking clean 'uncontaminated' water and eating correctly cooked and sanitized food
  • If you do have gastroenteritis, don't share towels, take time off work until you are at least 48hours diarrhoea free especially if you work in the food industry  

Treatment options include:

  • Maintaining good hydration- this is the most important step, drinks lots of water, eat small and light meals including plain rice and wholemeal bread which can help. Avoid heavy meals, spicy or acidic foods as this can worsen your symptoms initially 
  •  Medications
    • Rehydration drinks such as dioralyte. These drinks provide a good balance of water, salts and sugar and can be used to rehydrate a person if they are not managing to maintain their hydration 
    • Anti-diarrohea medications- these are not usually useful in this condition, as it is better to let the disease takes it course but it can help reduce the number of trips to the bathroom a person takes 
    • Antibiotics/Anti-parasitic medications- are useful if the infection is due to bacteria and parasites 

Symptoms should usually settle within 48-72hours. 

gastroenteritis treatment

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