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Today in Health & Wellness

Acute Gastroenteritis

Risk Factors
Commonly Prescribed Drugs
Treatment and Management
Doctors to Consult

Common Name/Other Name

Stomach flu; infectious diarrhea

Acute gastroenteritis is caused by the inflammation of the linings of the stomach and intestines leading to its characteristic signs and symptoms like vomiting and/or diarrhea. Gastroenteritis is a common but treatable disease. It can be fatal to children and elderly due to the development of complications especially severe dehydration.

Types of Acute Gastroenteritis:

  • Viral gastroenteritis is the most common form of the disease. The main types of virus involved are norovirus and rotavirus. Viral gastroenteritis is primarily transmitted by the fecal-oral route causing the contamination of food and water. Also, transmission of the virus can occur through inhalation of infected air droplets, contact with contaminated objects, and person-to-person contact. The symptoms have a sudden onset and last for 12 to 60 hours. Rarely, patients develop severe dehydration and eventually die due to the disease.
  • Bacterial gastroenteritis is the less common form usually caused by Escherichia coli, Salmonella or Campylobacter bacteria. The spread of the disease is typically caused by uncooked poultry, eggs, and poultry juices. Thus, the infection is also known as food poisoning. Pet reptiles and live poultry are able to spread Salmonella. Shigella is another cause of gastroenteritis. It can spread from one person to another or through contaminated food and water. Patients with bacterial gastroenteritis usually experience bloody diarrhea compared to patients with viral gastroenteritis who do not have blood in their stools.

Gastroenteritis is diagnosed using the patient’s symptoms, results of a physical exam and occurrence of similar cases in the household or community. Tests on the stool sample determine the cause of the infection and help eliminate other possible causes of the symptoms.


  • Vomiting (more common in children)
  • Diarrhea (more common in adults)
  • Loose, watery stools
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain


  • Dry skin
  • Dry mouth
  • Lightheadedness
  • Extreme thirst
  • Little to no urination
  • Sunken eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat
  • Muscle weakness
Risk Factors
  • Age. Young children and elderly have immune systems that might not effectively fight off the infection
  • Weakened immune system. HIV/AIDS patients, patients undergoing chemotherapy
Commonly Prescribed Drugs
Pain relievers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol can be given for relief of fever and body pain. However, use of these drugs is minimized because of its side effects that can worsen the gastrointestinal symptoms of the patient.
Treatment and Management
  • No specific antiviral therapy is available for viral gastroenteritis. It is usually self-limiting and increased fluid intake or use of oral rehydration salts is adequate to prevent dehydration. Intravenous fluid therapy is done on patients with severe dehydration.
  • Reintroduction of solid food to the patient should be gradual. Start with bland or plain foods like bread, potatoes, crackers, rice, and bananas. Avoid fried, spicy, fatty, and acidic foods that can worsen the gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • Avoid the use of anti-diarrheal medicines because it inhibits the elimination of the virus or bacteria from the body.
  • Patients who have the active disease should not prepare and serve food to avoid transmission of the virus or bacteria.
  • Practice proper hand washing and minimize sharing of personal items to reduce risk of spreading the disease.
Home Remedies
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