Prevention First

GASTRO ENTERITIS

Gastroenteritis also called gastric flue 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 bacteria.

Causes

  • Diarrhea, 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 (GI) infections.
  • 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 sick.
  • 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 common with minor inconvenience, but for small children and people with chronic illnesses, it can lead to dehydration that requires medical attention.
  • 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.

Symptoms

  • 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
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Abnormal flatulence
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Bloody stools
  • Fainting and Weakness

Prevention and risk

  • The most effective way to prevent contagious diarrheal infections is to wash your hands frequently. Dirty hands carry germs into the body when you do things like bite your nails or use your hands when eating.
  • It's important to always wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly after using the bathroom and before eating, especially if you know there's an illness going around. Making sure your bathroom surfaces are clean can also help to prevent infections.
  • Food and water can also spread germs that cause diarrhea. To help protect yourself, cook foods thoroughly and wash raw fruits and vegetables well before eating them.
  • Make sure your kitchen counters and cooking utensils are clean, too, especially after they've been in contact with raw meat, eggs and poultry. Avoid eating food that's been left out for a few hours, even if it's been reheated, because toxins can still survive in the food.
  • If you're traveling or camping, never drink from streams, springs, or lakes unless local health authorities have certified the water safe for drinking. In some developing countries, you may want to stick to bottled water and drinks rather than tap water and be careful about buying food from street vendors.
  • Pets, particularly reptiles, can also spread germs if they aren't kept away from family eating areas. Never wash pet cages or bowls in the same sink that your family uses to prepare meals. Always wash your hands after handling your pet.