Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and intestinal lining, usually during infection. Ganstroenteritis usually begins suddenly, with symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, and high temperature. There could be mini epidemics in a family or it can be acquired when in close contact with infected person, for e.g. school children. Most recuperate completely, without complications, with exception in older and infants, due to possible dehydration.
Symptoms come quickly, while they differ in severity:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain and cramps
- High temperature and headache
In case of diarrhea and vomiting, it may come to dehydration, which is more typical for babies and older persons. Dehydration may be difficult to recognize; therefore, visit a doctor, especially if you suffer from a chronic disease, or you can’t keep fluids or not urinate longer than 6 hours.
Gastroenteritis is mainly a consequence of a viral (viral gastroenteritis is also called stomach flu) or bacterial infection that irritates the stomach or intestinal lining. The infection is acquired from contaminated food or water, or it is spread from contact with an infected person.
In small children, rotaviruses or astroviruses are frequent causes of gastroenteritis, noroviruses being the cause for gastroenteritis in adolescents or older people. Most people acquire immunity for these viruses. Bacterial infections include: salmonella, campilo bacterium, and Escherichia coli.
As gastroenteritis is viral or bacterial infection, group gatherings is a risk factor for acquiring gastroenteritis. Further, age plays a role because the immune system of young children is not yet developed, while in older people, it may not be fully functioning. Weakened immune system, for e.g. in case of chronic diseases, is another risk factor.
Prevention of gastroenteritis includes:
- Hygiene – wash hands regularly, avoiding sharing glasses, plates
- Use bottled water
- Disinfection of surfaces, especially in kindergartens, schools, etc.
- Immunization – in some countries, vaccines are available to prevent severe symptoms
- Avoid close contact with people who already have gastroenteritis