Gastroenteritis is inflammation of
the gastrointestinal tract, involving both the stomach and the small
intestine resulting in acute diarrhea. It can be transferred by
contact with contaminated food and water. The inflammation is caused
most often by an infection from certain viruses or less often by
which is characterized by frequent and watery bowel movements,
is often caused by gastrointestinal infections, although it
can also come from other illnesses or changes in diet. Germs
such as parasites, viruses, or bacteria can all cause gastrointestinal
Germs which are responsible for diarrhea depends on the geographic
area a person lives in and its level of sanitation, economic
development and hygiene standards. For example, countries that
have poor sanitation or use human waste as fertilizer tend to
have outbreaks of diarrhea when intestinal bacteria or parasites
contaminate crops or drinking water.
In developed countries like the United States, outbreaks of
diarrhea are most often caused by what we call food poisoning.
Food poisoning happens when toxins made by bacteria in food
that is not handled, stored, or cooked properly make a person
The viruses that cause diarrheal illness, also known as viral
gastroenteritis, can pass through a household (or a college
dorm or other place where lots of people live together) quickly
because they're highly infectious. Luckily, the diarrhea usually
goes away on its own in a few days.
For healthy teens and adults, viral gastroenteritis is a common
with minor inconvenience, but for small children and people
with chronic illnesses, it can lead to dehydration that requires
Many different types of bacteria and parasites can also cause
GI infections and diarrhea. Most are not serious and go away
after a few days, but others can be quite serious.
Some sources of the infection are improperly prepared food,
reheated meat dishes, seafood, dairy and bakery products.
Gastroenteritis often involves infection of the upper small
bowel, or inflammatory infections of the colon.
The condition is usually of acute onset, normally lasting 1–6
days and is self-limiting.
Nausea and vomiting
Loss of appetite
objective of treatment is to replace lost fluids and electrolytes.
Oral rehydration is the preferred treatment of fluid and electrolyte
losses caused by diarrhea in children with mild to moderate
The primary treatment of gastroenteritis in both children and
adults is rehydration, i.e., replenishment of water and electrolytes
lost in the stools. This is preferably achieved by giving the
person oral rehydration therapy.
Although intravenous delivery may be required if a decreased
level of consciousness is present. Complex-carbohydrate-based
Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) such as those made from wheat or
rice have been found to be superior to simple sugar-based ORS.
Sugary drinks such as soft drinks and fruit juice are not recommended
for gastroenteritis in children under 5 years of age as they
may make the diarrhea worse. Plain water may be used if specific
ORS are unavailable or not palatable.
It is recommended that breastfed infants continue to be nursed
on demand and that formula-fed infants should continue their
usual formula immediately after rehydration with oral rehydration
Children receiving semisolid or solid foods should continue
to receive their usual diet during episodes of diarrhea. Foods
high in simple sugars should be avoided e.g. soft drinks, juice and other high simple sugar foods.
Gastroenteritis is usually an acute and self-limited disease
that does not require pharmacological therapy.