Gastroenteritis: Learn About Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

Medical Gastroenterology


Gastroenteritis is referred as an inflammation and infection of the gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach and intestines. Diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain are the most common symptoms of gastroenteritis. It is accompanied by fever, fatigue, and dehydration, and symptoms usually last for less than two weeks. It is often called stomach flu, which develops through contact with an infected person or contaminated food or water. A majority recover without complications, but it can become fatal in infants, older adults, and those with a compromised immune system. There is no effective treatment plan for gastroenteritis. Thus prevention is the key strategy which includes regular hand washing and avoiding contaminated food and drinks.

What is Acute gastroenteritis?

Acute gastroenteritis is an infectious disease that causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. This condition develops when a person eats food or drinks contaminated by pathogens. It usually lasts for lesser than 14 days when compared to persistent gastroenteritis, which lasts between 14 and 30 days.

Symptoms Of Gastroenteritis

The significant symptoms of gastroenteritis are watery diarrhea and vomiting. Some of the other symptoms that are generally visible after 2-3 days of infection and last for 1 to 10 days include:

  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Fever with chills
  • Poor appetite
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Body aches, muscle pain, or joint pain

Seek immediate medical care if the symptoms get worsen, such as:

  • Diarrhea that lasts for more than three days
  • Bloody stools
  • Severe dehydration
  • Causes Of Gastroenteritis

There are several ways gastroenteritis can spread, which include:

  • Contact with an infected person
  • Having contaminated food or water
  • Eating undercooked food
  • Soiled hands after using the bathroom or changing a diaper

Well, the most common cause of gastroenteritis is viruses. In many cases, Rotavirus is the leading cause of diarrhea in infants and children, while norovirus is the typical cause of a severe form of gastro infection in adults.

Though not very common, bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella can trigger infection. Salmonella and campylobacter are the most common bacterium that can cause gastroenteritis, and this typically spreads via undercooked poultry or eggs. Salmonella can also spread through pet reptiles or live poultry farms.

Shigella is another bacterium that causes gastroenteritis, spreading from person to person, and common mediums of infection are soiled food and contaminated water.

Though parasites can also cause gastroenteritis, it's less common. And you can get infected from giardia and cryptosporidium in a contaminated swimming pool or by drinking contaminated water.

Other less common ways to get gastroenteritis include:

  • Drinking water containing heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, etc
  • Consuming excess amounts of acidic foods like citrus and tomatoes
  • Toxins present in certain seafood
  • Certain medications such as antibiotics, antacids, laxatives, and chemotherapy drugs

Treatment For Gastroenteritis

The main aim of the treatment of gastroenteritis in both children and adults is rehydration. This can be achieved by:

  • Giving a child ORS (oral rehydration solution)
  • Adults should be encouraged to drink plenty of clear fluids in small amounts and for the frequent duration
  • As symptoms get better
  • Slowly start to introduce food back into the diet
  • Begin with soft, bland easy to digest foods like bread, toast, rice, crackers, and bananas
  • Limit dairy, caffeine, and alcoholic beverages until completely recovered

When To Seek Immediate Medical Help:

  • If vomiting in adults or children aged two or above lasts for more than one day
  • Fever
  • Frequent severe diarrhea that lasts for more than two days
  • Children below two years had vomiting or diarrhea for more than 12 hours
  • When vomiting or diarrhea turns bloody
  • Patients with kidney, liver, or heart disease must restrict fluid intake
  • When a person develops sudden intense abdominal pain
  • With symptoms of severe dehydration
  • If symptoms don't settle after a week

Dehydration with the following symptoms should be treated in emergency medical care:

  • Anuria (little to no urination)
  • Intense thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Muscle weakness

Prevention of Gastroenteritis

Following some of the preventive measures can prevent the spread of gastroenteritis:

  • Getting your child vaccinated
  • Washing hands thoroughly after using the toilet, changing diapers, and before cooking or eating food
  • Avoid sharing utensils, glasses, and plates, and use separate bath towels
  • Keep sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer handy
  • Disinfect hard surfaces in the home if someone at home has gastroenteritis
  • Avoid touching soiled laundry and wash clothing and bedding in hot water and dry them well

Where To Get Help:

Consult our team of eminent Gastroenterologists at the Department of Gastroenterology, Gleneagles Hospital, Mumbai to get specialized care and treatment to manage gastroenteritis effectively.

Book an appointment with the Best Gastroenterologists in Mumbai at Gleneagles Hospital, Parel.


Clear all

Need Help