What Is Gastroenteritis? | Gastroenterology


Overview of gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation (irritation) of your intestines. Although it is not generally limited to influenza, people call it the “stomach virus” or “stomach flu.” Although many people report abdominal pain, gastroenteritis can also affect the small intestine and colon.

If you are healthy, you will recover without problems. But for babies, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems, viral gastroenteritis can be fatal. There is no effective treatment for viral gastroenteritis, so prevention is essential. In addition to avoiding contaminated food and water, washing your hands thoroughly and frequently is your best protection.

Who gets gastroenteritis?

If you live in a place where many people live or share places to eat, you are more likely to get:

  • Children in the nursery.
  • Nursing homes.
  • Students living in dormitories.
  • Military personnel.
  • Prisons
  • Psychiatric wards.
  • Cruise passengers.
  • Travellers to less developed countries.
  • Someone with a compromised immune status.

Symptoms of gastroenteritis

The signs and symptoms of stomach flu can vary depending on the cause. The main symptom of viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu) is diarrhoea (not bleeding).

  • It can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and some abdominal cramps.
  • Some people with viral gastroenteritis may experience a mild fever (about 100 F or 37.77 C), chills, headache, and muscle aches.

Symptoms generally last two to five days and then begin to resolve with viral gastroenteritis.

Bacterial gastroenteritis (stomach flu) shares many of the same symptoms as viral stomach flu, but in some people, the bacteria can cause hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (hemorrhagic gastroenteritis).

Symptoms can occur in some people with viral or bacterial stomach flu. Symptoms can also be caused by other causes of stomach flu (medications, food allergies, toxins), for example:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight Loss
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Headache
  • Eosinophilia (mainly in allergic gastroenteritis)
  • Loss of electrolytes
  • Acute gastroenteritis means that the person has signs of dehydration. This is a medical emergency.

What causes gastroenteritis?

There are several ways of spreading gastroenteritis:

  • Contact those with the virus
  • Contaminated food or water

The most common cause of gastroenteritis is a virus. The main types are rotavirus and norovirus.

Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhoea in infants and young children in the world. Acute gastroenteritis and the US Norovirus is the most common cause of foodborne illness in India.

Although not as common, bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella can also trigger stomach flu. Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria in the US are the most common bacterial causes of gastroenteritis and are usually transmitted by undercooked poultry, eggs, or poultry juices. Salmonella can also be transmitted by domestic reptiles or live poultry.

Risk factors

Gastroenteritis occurs around the world and affects people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. People at high risk of gastroenteritis:

  • Children in kindergartens or elementary schools are particularly vulnerable because a child’s immune system takes time to mature.
  • Older adults. Older people in nursing homes, in particular, have weakened immune systems and are in close contact with other people who accompany germs. Schoolchildren, parishioners, or dormitories. Intestinal infections are more likely to occur if groups of people gather in tight spaces.
  • Someone with a weakened immune system. for example, if your immune system is compromised by HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, or another medical condition, you are at special risk.

There is a season when each gastrointestinal virus is very active. For example, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you are more likely to get rotavirus or norovirus infections between October and April.

Treatment for gastroenteritis

The main goal of treatment is to prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids. In severe cases, hospitalization and intravenous fluids are required. Over-the-counter oral rehydration (OHS) solutions such as pedicellate can help in mild cases. They are made to be light on your baby’s stomach and contain a balanced mix of water and salts to replenish essential fluids and electrolytes. These solutions are available at local pharmacies and do not require a prescription. However, you must follow the instructions carefully.

  • Buy oral rehydration solutions like Pedialyte.
  • Buy oral electrolyte products.
  • Antibiotics do not affect viruses. Consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications.

What to eat and what to avoid

When you start to feel better and reintroduce foods into your diet, it is a good idea to choose foods that are generally flat. These foods:

  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Banana
  • Apples

These foods are easier to digest and less likely to cause an upset stomach. Until you feel better, you can avoid a few things:

  • High-fat diets
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Sugary food
  • Dairy products


The main complication of viral gastroenteritis is dehydration, which is most serious in infants and young children. Other issues:

  • Nutritional imbalance
  • Weakness
  • Muscular weakness

Dehydration is fatal. Call your doctor if you or your child have these symptoms:

  • Diarrhoea lasts more than a few days.
  • Blood in the stool
  • Confusion or laziness
  • Feeling epileptic or dizzy
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Inability to produce tears
  • Urine for more than eight hours or dark yellow or brown urine
  • Hollow eyes
  • The sunken fontanel in the baby’s head.

To prevent complications, you or your child should seek immediate medical attention if you have symptoms of dehydration.


If you already have this disease, take safety precautions to avoid spreading the bacteria to others.

Wash your hands after using the toilet and before handling food. Don’t prepare food for other people until your symptoms improve. Avoid close contact with others during your illness. After your symptoms stop, try to wait at least 48 hours before returning to work.

Take precautions when travelling

When you travel to other countries, you can get sick from contaminated food or water. You can reduce your risk by following these tips:

  • Drink only well-sealed bottled or sparkling water.
  • Avoid ice cubes as they are made from contaminated water.
  • Avoid raw foods, including peeled fruits, raw vegetables, and salads, that are touched by human hands.
  • Avoid undercooked meat and fish.

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