Stomach Flu (Gastroenteritis)
Gastroenteritis (Stomach flu) is one of the most prevalent inflammatory gastrointestinal conditions. It is a non-specific presentation with multiple underlying etiologies. Despite having an excellent prognosis, untreated gastroenteritis can cause severe dehydration and even death.
What is gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis is a common intestinal infection which can cause watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting, and sometimes fever.
Gastroenteritis is usually caused by eating or drinking contaminated food and fecal-oral route. It can be viral or bacterial in origin.
- Noroviruses. This virus affects many people of all age groups worldwide. Norovirus infection can spread through direct contact and consumption of contaminated food and drinks.
- Rotavirus. Worldwide, this is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in children. Children contain this virus by touching contaminated things and inserting them into mouths. The infection is most severe in infants and young children.
- Common Bacterial causes include Staphylococci, Salmonella, Shigella and E-coli.
Stomach flu is not the same as influenza that commonly affects your nose, throat and lungs. Gastroenteritis affects your intestines, causing signs and symptoms, such as:
- Watery, usually nonblood diarrhea — bloody diarrhea usually means various diseases attack you
- Bloodied diarrhea in case of bacterial infections
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea, vomiting
- Occasional muscle aches or headache
- Low-grade fever
Gastroenteritis arises all over the world, distressing people of every age and background.
Acute Vs. Chronic
Acute gastroenteritis lasts for up to 2-10 days and has a viral etiology. However, chronic gastroenteritis persists for months and is usually due to food allergies.
People who may be more vulnerable to gastroenteritis include:
· Young children. Children in child care centres or elementary schools may be notably more prone because it takes time for a child’s immune system to work properly.
· Older adults. Adult immune systems incline to become less effective later in life. Older adults in nursing homes, in specific, are susceptible because their immune systems deteriorate and they live in close contact with others who may be the carriers.
· Schoolchildren, churchgoers or dormitory residents. Anywhere that groups of people come together in a closed area can be an environment for an intestinal infection to get passed.
· Anyone with a weakened immune system. Conditions like by HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy or another medical condition compromise your immune system, putting you at more risk.
Treatment and Prevention
The best way to prevent gastroenteritis is to maintain hygiene, practice frequent handwashing, avoid eating uncooked food and contaminated water.
The treatment regimen of stomach flu mostly includes:
- Bed rest
- “BRAT” (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet