About gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
What is gastroenteritis (stomach flu)?
Definition of gastroenteritis
Gastroenteritis (often referred to as the "stomach flu," however, it is not related to the influenza virus. Gastroenteritis is a nonspecific term for various inflammatory problems in the gastrointestinal tract with the most common symptoms and signs being diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pains.
As previously mentioned, although it is not caused by influenza viruses, gastroenteritis is commonly referred to as the "stomach flu" because most people have acute symptoms that last a day or so, and then begin to resolve, like the symptoms of more benign flu strains. In the U.S., less than 2% of the estimated 100 million persons with gastroenteritis symptoms per year ever require hospitalization, but in developing countries it is a leading cause of death, mainly due to dehydration. Severe gastroenteritis can cause dehydration. Also, people with symptoms of diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, fever greater than 101 F (38.33 C) for longer than 5 days, or have severe infection (sepsis), and other problems will be considered to have another disease (for example, shigellosis). Not all doctors agree on the nonspecific term of gastroenteritis so for this article, the parameters are presented that comprise the causes and symptoms that many researchers consider to occur with gastroenteritis.
What are the symptoms for gastroenteritis (stomach flu)?
The stomach, small intestine and large intestine (colon) are part of your digestive tract, which processes the foods you eat. Viral gastroenteritis is an inflammation of these organs caused by a virus.
Although it's commonly called stomach flu, gastroenteritis isn't the same as influenza. The flu (influenza) affects only your respiratory system — your nose, throat and lungs. Gastroenteritis, on the other hand, attacks your intestines, causing signs and symptoms such as:
- Watery, usually nonbloody Diarrhea — bloody Diarrhea usually means you have a different, more severe infection
- Nausea, Vomiting or both
- Stomach cramps and pain
- Occasional Muscle aches or Headache
- Low-grade Fever
Depending on the cause, viral gastroenteritis symptoms may appear within 1-3 days after you're infected and can range from mild to severe. Symptoms usually last just a day or two, but occasionally they may last up to 14 days.
Because the symptoms are similar, it's easy to confuse viral Diarrhea with Diarrhea caused by bacteria, such as Clostridioides difficile, salmonella and Escherichia coli, or parasites, such as giardia.
What are the causes for gastroenteritis (stomach flu)?
You're most likely to get viral gastroenteritis when you eat or drink contaminated food or water. You may also be likely to get gastroenteritis if you share utensils, towels or food with someone who has one of the viruses that cause the condition.
Many viruses can cause gastroenteritis, including:
Noroviruses. Both children and adults are affected by noroviruses, the most common cause of foodborne illness worldwide. Norovirus infection can sweep through families and communities. It's especially likely to spread among people in confined spaces.
In most cases, you pick up the virus from contaminated food or water. But it can also spread between people who are in close contact or who share food. You can also get the virus by touching a surface that's been contaminated with norovirus and then touching your mouth.
Rotavirus. Worldwide, this is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in children, who are usually infected when they put their fingers or other objects contaminated with the virus into their mouths. It can also spread through contaminated food. The infection is most severe in infants and young children.
Adults infected with rotavirus may not have symptoms, but can still spread the illness. This is of particular concern in institutional settings such as nursing homes because adults with the virus unknowingly can pass the virus to others. A vaccine against viral gastroenteritis is available in some countries, including the United States, and appears to be effective in preventing the infection.
Some shellfish, especially raw or undercooked oysters, also can make you sick. Contaminated drinking water is a cause of viral diarrhea. But in many cases the virus is passed when someone with a virus handles food you eat without washing his or her hands after using the toilet.
What are the treatments for gastroenteritis (stomach flu)?
Most people with gastroenteritis require no formal treatment. The key to a rapid and safe recovery at home (home remedy) is proper hydration. Home treatment consists of adequate fluid intake so dehydration is prevented. Clear fluids are recommended (Pedialyte especially for young children, Gatorade, PowerAde and other sports drinks), but not fruit juices or milk as they may prolong the symptoms. If dehydration occurs, the patient should be evaluated by a doctor. Many health care professionals choose to begin IV fluids, the treatment of choice for rapid rehydration.
Other medications may be prescribed to reduce the symptoms of gastroenteritis. To reduce vomiting, promethazine (Phenergan), prochlorperazine (Compazine), or ondansetron (Zofran) are often used. Some physicians suggest using these agents only as a suppository or rapidly disintegrating tablet on the tongue since patients may vomit the pills up. Others may prescribe diphenoxylate and atropineomotil (Lomotil) or lopermadine (Imodium) to slow diarrhea while others do not as the drugs may prolong the disease in some individuals. Many doctors recommend no medical treatment for gastroenteritis symptoms as all of the drugs have side effects and if the patient stays well hydrated, the symptoms usually stop soon anyway.
As the gastroenteritis symptoms abate, especially vomiting, doctors may recommend a BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apples and toast) for a day or two before returning to the patient's regular diet. Potatoes, lean meat like chicken and whole grains can help replace nutrients and electrolytes lost with diarrhea.
Patients who have more serious symptoms or other symptoms in addition to gastroenteritis need to be evaluated, diagnosed, and treated by a physician because the patient will likely have a specific disease that will need treatment. The treatment will depend on the cause of the illness (for example, salmonellosis or Clostridium difficile toxin). Antibiotics and other treatments may not be recommended for some of these diseases so an accurate diagnosis of the disease is important. For Clostridium difficile infected patients, antibiotic sensitivity testing may need to be done to determine the most effective antibiotics to use.
What are the risk factors for gastroenteritis (stomach flu)?
Gastroenteritis occurs all over the world and can affect people of all ages.
People who may be more susceptible to gastroenteritis include:
- Young children. Children in child care centers or elementary schools may be especially vulnerable because it takes time for a child's immune system to mature.
- Older adults. Adult immune systems tend to become less efficient later in life. Older adults in nursing homes are vulnerable because their immune systems weaken. They also live in close contact with others who may pass along germs.
- Schoolchildren or dormitory residents. Anywhere that groups of people come together in close quarters can be an environment for an intestinal infection to get passed.
- Anyone with a weakened immune system. If your resistance to infection is low — for instance, if your immune system is compromised by HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy or another medical condition — you may be especially at risk.
Each gastrointestinal virus has a season when it's most active. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, for instance, you're more likely to have rotavirus or norovirus infections in the winter and spring.
Is there a cure/medications for gastroenteritis (stomach flu)?
Infections in all the portions of the large intestine with defects creating inflammation and pains in the upper abdomen and stomach region are called Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu). There are a lot of explanations for the occurrence of this ailment.
- Gastric errors due to an unhygienic lifestyle are the main cause of intestinal infections.
- Cleanliness in and around the environment is a necessity to avoid such infection.
- In the case of children, everything from their toys to clothes needs to be clean and sanitized before use.
- In the case of hyper Gastroenteritis, immediate medical attention should be given to the patient, or else it might result in faintness due to dehydration.
- It is not serious, but the body requires an enormous amount of fluid in this situation which is only possible through injections or drips.
- Drip refers to (Directly into the bloodstream via Veins).
Doctors suggest it’s better to understand the individual digestive system and eat accordingly. But infection needs medical attention as follows:
- Antibiotics and prescribed drugs for initial relief
- Let the infection completely drain out through excretion or vomiting once.
- Glucose/ Drip as soon as the energy levels demean.
- Drinking lots of Oral Rehydration Drinks and Water
- Intravenous Fluid Replacements (IFR) in severe cases.
Bloating,Abdominal Pain,Cramps,Nausea,Body aches,Bloody stools
Pus in Stools,Loss of appetite,Lethargy, Diarrhoea