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Causes and Symptoms of Gastroenteritis & Its Management

Gastroenteritis is widely known as stomach flu and is a common problem faced today.. It is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Different parasitic, bacterial and viral infections cause this problem. However, consuming contaminated water or food may also lead to this problem. It affects people across all ages and has different signs and symptoms.

Causes of Gastroenteritis

Viruses: Viral gastroenteritis is one of the commonest causes of gastroenteritis. The most prevalent viruses responsible for gastroenteritis include norovirus, rotavirus, adenovirus and astrovirus (Dennehy, P.H., 2011. Viral gastroenteritis in children. The Pediatric infectious disease journal, 30(1), pp.63-64). These viruses are highly contagious and may spread through different things like contaminated water, food or even by close contact with an affected person.
Bacteria: Bacterial infections can also cause gastroenteritis. Common bacterial culprits include Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella and Clostridium difficile. These are transmitted through contaminated food and water. It may also be caused due to poor hygiene practices or contact with infected individuals.
Parasites: Parasitic infections are less common causes of gastroenteritis but can still occur. Parasites such as Giardia lamblia, Cryptosporidium and Entamoeba histolytica can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, particularly in areas with inadequate sanitation (Chow, C.M., Leung, A.K. and Hon, K.L., 2010. Acute gastroenteritis: from guidelines to real life. Clinical and experimental gastroenterology, pp.97-112).
Contaminated food and water: It can be transmitted from consuming food or water that is contaminated with infectious agents . Improper handling, storage or preparation of food, as well as consuming raw or undercooked food, can increase the risk of infection.

Symptoms of Gastroenteritis

The primary symptoms of gastroenteritis may include the following:
Diarrhea: Loose or watery stools are common symptoms of gastroenteritis. The frequency and severity of diarrhea can vary depending on the cause and individual.
Nausea and vomiting: Many individuals with gastroenteritis experience nausea and vomiting. These gastroenteritis symptoms are often accompanied by a general feeling of uneasiness or discomfort in the stomach (Corcoran, M.S., Van Well, G.T.J. and Van Loo, I.H.M., 2014. Diagnosis of viral gastroenteritis in children: interpretation of real-time PCR results and relation to clinical symptoms. European journal of clinical microbiology & infectious diseases, 33, pp.1663-1673). For the best insights related to this condition, follow DocTube.
Abdominal pain and cramping: Gastroenteritis can cause abdominal pain, cramping or a sensation of bloating. The severity of these symptoms of gastroenteritis can vary from mild to severe.

Fever: Some cases of gastroenteritis may be accompanied by a low-grade fever. However, not all individuals with gastroenteritis will develop a fever.
Dehydration: Other common gastroenteritis symptoms may include dehydration. The combination of diarrhea and vomiting can lead to fluid loss and dehydration (Tam, C.C., O’Brien, S.J., Tompkins, D.S., Bolton, F.J., Berry, L., Dodds, J., Choudhury, D., Halstead, F., Iturriza-Gómara, M., Mather, K. and Rait, G., 2012. Changes in causes of acute gastroenteritis in the United Kingdom over 15 years: microbiologic findings from 2 prospective, population-based studies of infectious intestinal disease. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 54(9), pp.1275-1286). Signs of dehydration may include increased thirst, dry mouth, decreased urine output and fatigue.

Diagnosis of Gastroenteritis

Whever a patient suffers from these symptoms, it is crucial for him to seek prompt action. Its diagnosis is typically based on a combination of medical history, physical examination and sometimes laboratory tests. Here is an overview of the diagnostic process for gastroenteritis:
Physical examination: The doctor will perform a physical examination to assess the patient’s general condition, hydration status and abdominal tenderness (Churgay, C.A. and Aftab, Z., 2012. Gastroenteritis in children: part I. diagnosis. American family physician, 85(11), pp.1059-1062). They may also check for other signs of infection or complications.
Medical history: The doctor will ask the patient about which kind of gastroenteritis symptoms he has been facing. These may include the duration and severity of diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and any associated symptoms like fever or dehydration. They will also inquire about recent food intake, travel history and possible exposure to contaminated food or water.

Stool sample analysis: In some cases, the doctor may collect a stool sample to test for the presence of bacteria, viruses or parasites (Parashar, U.D., Nelson, E.A.S. and Kang, G., 2013. Diagnosis, management, and prevention of rotavirus gastroenteritis in children. Bmj, 347). This test can help identify the specific infectious agent causing gastroenteritis and guide appropriate treatment.
Blood tests: Blood tests helps to examine signs of infection and to assess electrolyte levels. It also helps to evaluate kidney and liver function. These tests can provide important information about the severity of the illness and help monitor overall health.
Imaging tests: Imaging tests like abdominal ultrasound or X-ray helps to rule out other conditions or evaluate for complications such as intestinal obstruction or inflammation.
It is important to consult a healthcare professional if you suspect gastroenteritis, as they can accurately diagnose the condition and recommend appropriate treatment. While most cases of gastroenteritis resolve on their own with supportive care, severe or prolonged symptoms of gastroenteritis may require medical intervention to prevent complications and manage dehydration. Treatment typically involves managing the gastroenteritis symptoms and preventing dehydration. This may include rest, drinking plenty of fluids such as water, clear broth or oral rehydration solutions and avoiding certain foods and drinks that can aggravate the stomach. In some cases, healthcare professionals may recommend medications to control diarrhea or nausea.