ACUTE GASTROENTERITIS

Acute Gastroenteritis is diarrhea or vomiting, or both, of more than several episodes or days duration.
 
FACTS:
– Viral gastroenteritis is a leading cause of severe diarrhea in both adults and children.
– Many types of viruses can cause gastroenteritis. Rotavirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis worldwide in children and vaccination will have a major impact on disease incidence.
– Most people with acute gastroenteritis are not dehydrated and can be managed at home.
– Dehydration, electrolyte disturbance and other complications can be prevented and treated by fluid therapy
– Those with mild-moderate dehydration can be treated with oral rehydration solutions.
– Severely dehydrated or shocked usually need intravenous fluids and hospital admission
– Drugs are usually unnecessary and may do harm

SYMPTOMS
Most often appear within 4 to 48 hours after contact with the virus. Common symptoms include:
– Abdominal pain
– Diarrhea
– Nausea and vomiting
– Chills, clammy skin, or sweating
– Fever
– Joint stiffness or muscle pain    
– Poor feeding
– Weight loss

DIAGNOSIS
The health care provider will look for signs of dehydration, including:
– Low or no urine output; concentrated urine that looks dark yellow
– Dry or sticky mouth
– Severe weakness
– Low blood pressure
– No tears
– Sunken eyes
 
Tests of stool samples may be used to identify the virus that is causing the sickness. Most of the time, this test is not needed for viral gastroenteritis. A stool examination may be done to find out if the problem is being caused by bacteria.

TREATMENT
The goal of treatment is to prevent dehydration by making sure the body has enough water and fluids. Fluids and electrolytes (salt and minerals) that are lost through diarrhea or vomiting must be replaced by drinking extra fluids. Even if you are able to eat, you should still drink extra fluids between meals.

Try eating small amounts of food frequently, including cereals, bread, potatoes, lean meat, plain yogurt, bananas, fresh apples, vegetables.

Drink small amounts of fluid (2 – 4 oz.) every 30 – 60 minutes. Do not try to force down large amounts of fluid at one time, which can cause vomiting. Use a teaspoon or syringe for an infant or small child.
If you have diarrhea and are unable to drink or keep down fluids because of nausea or vomiting, you may need fluids through a vein, which is done in the hospital. Consult a doctor if there are signs of dehydration.

PREVENTION
There are some actions people can do to prevent or reduce the chance of getting gastroenteritis, including:
– Wash hands thoroughly
– Do not eat undercooked foods, especially meats
– Do not eat or drink raw foods
– Boil untreated water
– Do not drink untreated or unpasteurized fluids, especially milk
– Thoroughly wash any produce (e.g. fruits, vegetables) before eating
– Drink only well-sealed bottled or carbonated water.
– Avoid ice cubes, because they may be made from contaminated water.
– Use bottled water to brush your teeth.
– Avoid raw food — including peeled fruits, raw vegetables and salads (which has been touched by human hands)
– Avoid undercooked meat and fish.

References:
www.doh.gov
www.cdc.gov
www.webmd.com
www.mayoclinic.org
www.medicinenet.com