Gastroenteritis also known as the stomach flu is a condition where the stomach and small intestines get inflamed through infections resulting in severe diarrhea and vomiting. It’s mostly prevalent in new born babies and kids under the age of five. It’s quite lethal and is responsible for about 8 million deaths each year.
Who Can Get Gastroenteritis?
This disease is mainly prevalent in babies and children who are below the age of five years. Surveys conducted showed that this disease was responsible for not less than five million deaths of children world wide some years back. This number must be higher now that there are more children than before especially in the developing world. Though common in babies, adults also do get it especially those that live in places that have very poor hygienic standards especially in the developing world.
Causes of Gastroenteritis
Though this disease is mainly viral in nature, it has nothing to do with influenza though it’s caused by other types of viruses and bacteria that happen to be very contagious in nature and spread quite fast mainly in food and drinking water. Viruses are the major causes of gastroenteritis while bacteria are less prevalent. One gets infected through poor hygienic standards such as not washing hands after using the toilets then handling food with the dirty hands or living in very dirty places that have plenty of these viruses that get in contact with food and cause the disease. Norovirus is the one responsible for the food borne gastroenteritis. The bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and shigellia do cause gastroenteritis though they are less common than the viral one. Drinking contaminated water and eating poorly cooked food coupled with poor sanitation greatly contribute to the spread of this disease.
Symptoms of Gastroenteritis
This disease is characterized by several symptoms but the most common ones are stomach pains, diarrhea and vomiting. These are the clinical signs that one is likely suffering from gastroenteritis though most people usually mistake it for food poisoning. The other symptoms for it may include blood stained stools, severe abdominal pains, loss of appetite, cramps in the abdomen, feeling weak to the extend of fainting due to dehydration.
Over the Counter Treatments for Gastroenteritis
Regardless of the causes, the most recommended treatment for gastroenteritis is rehydration. Since the patient tends to lose so much water through vomiting and diarrhea, getting the fluids replaced is the most logical thing one has to consider as a priority. The rehydration process can be done both orally and intravenously. Pedialyte, Ricelyte, or Resol are best recommended for children. The dosage varies with age, the younger ones getting the least while adults getting the most according to the doctors advice. Adults can also use clear fluids such as water for the first 24 hours.
Gastroenteritis Alternative Treatments
Alternative treatments for gastroenteritis can be achieved by altering the diet to help the patient cope with the disease. Herbal remedies as well as homeopathy such as arsenicum album or nux vomica can really help. The use of meadowsweet can help the reduction of nausea as well as stomach acidity. To calm the digestive tract after taking care of the worst symptoms, slippery elm is highly recommended.
When is Medicinal Treatment Necessary?
Gastroenteritis is a disease that could prove fatal if not properly taken care of. When one starts vomiting blood or having blood stained stools, it’s time to visit your family doctor who will take care of the problem.
The best recommended medical care for this illness is bismuth subsalicylate. Promethazine or zofran are also good remedies.