Digestion | July 4, 2014 | Author: The Super Pharmacist
Gastroenteritis, which is more commonly known as gastro, is caused by an inflammation or infection in the digestive system, particularly in the lining of the intestines. Each year, close to five to ten million people from all over the globe die from gastroenteritis, primarily young children living in countries that are underdeveloped. Most gastro deaths are related to circulatory collapse, inadequate fluid replacement and dehydration. Occasionally, a fatality still happens in Australia caused by the complications of severe dehydration associated with gastroenteritis. Every year, approximately five thousand cases are seen at the Royal Children’s Hospital of Melbourne. Of those cases, close to five hundred will require admission into the hospital. Many more cases of treatment take place elsewhere in this country, in addition to an unknown number that do not require medical attention.
Depending on the toxin or germ that causes the infection, it can take some time for symptoms of gastroenteritis to appear. Generally, the symptoms will start one to two days following exposure. However, in some cases, symptoms have become noticeable in as little as one hour, such as with the staphylococcal toxin. In other cases, it has taken as long as two months for symptoms to appear.
These symptoms can include:
The most prominent symptoms of gastroenteritis are abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting with a low-grade fever. The symptoms of severe cases are the presence of blood in the stool or vomit, vomiting that lasts more than forty-eight hours, a fever that is higher than 40°C, abdominal swelling and dehydration. If any of these symptoms occur, especially in infants and young children, urgent medical attention should be sought.
Bacterial, parasitic and viral infections can lead to gastroenteritis. However, the most common are bacteria and viruses.
Known causes of the illness include:
The bacteria and germs that cause gastroenteritis can be found in animals, food, soil and water, in addition to being transferred by humans. Actions that can lead to exposure include:
In most cases, gastroenteritis will go away on its own over the course of a few days. However, the associated diarrhoea can last for several more days. The exact treatment for gastroenteritis will depend on the cause of the illness, but may include:
Intake of plenty of fluids
Oral rehydration drinks
Intravenous fluid replacement for severe cases.
Antibiotics for cases caused by bacteria, such as Erythromycin or Ciprofloxacin
Anti-parasitic drugs for cases caused by parasites
It is important to avoid taking any anti-diarrhoea or anti-vomiting medications unless directed to do so by a doctor. The reason for this is that such medications can actually cause the infection to remain within the body for a prolonged amount of time, leading to serious complications.
Nemours Foundation, KidsHealth “Stomach Flu”
Bhutta ZA. Chapter 332 - Acute Gastroenteritis in Children, Kliegman: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed.; 2011
Better Health Channel, Gastroenteritis
Government of Western Australia Department of Health, Health conditions, Gastroenteritis
ABC Health & Wellbeing, A-Z Library, Fact File, Gastroenteritis
WebMD, Digestive Disorders Health Center, Gastroenteritis
Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease, 9th ed.; 2010
U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus, Gastroenteritis
Emedicinehealth, Digestive Disorders Center, Digestive Disorders A-Z List, Gastroenteritis Article
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), Viral Gastroenteritis
Cleveland Clinic, Health Information, Diseases & Conditions, Gastroenteritis
MedicineNet.com, Digestion Center, Digestion A-Z List, Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu) Article