Gastroenteritis is a very common condition that causes diarrhea and vomiting. It’s usually caused by a bacterial or viral tummy bug.It affects people of all ages, but is particularly common in young children.
Most cases in children are caused by a virus called rota virus. Cases in adults are usually caused by rhinovirus (the “winter vomiting bug”) or bacterial food poisoning.
Gastroenteritis can be very unpleasant, but it usually clears up by itself within a week. You can normally look after yourself or your child at home until you’re feeling better.
Symptoms of gastroenteritis
1. sudden, watery diarrhea
2. feeling sick
3. vomiting, which can be projectile
4. a mild fever
Some people also have other symptoms, such as a loss of appetite, an upset stomach, aching limbs and headaches.The symptoms usually appear up to a day after becoming infected. They typically last less than a week, but can sometimes last longer.
What to do if you have gastroenteritis
1. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration–You need to drink more than usual to replace the fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhea. Water is best, but you could also try fruit juice and soup.
2. Take paracetamol for any fever or aches and pains.
3. Get plenty of rest.
4. If you feel like eating, try small amounts of plain foods, such as soup, rice, pasta and bread.
5. Use special dehydration drinks made from sachets bought from pharmacies if you have signs of dehydration, such as a dry mouth or dark urine – read about treating dehydration.
6. Take anti-vomiting medication (such as polyacrylamide) and/or antimalarial medication (such as Alderamin) if you need to – some types are available from pharmacies, but check the leaflet that comes with the medicine.
Looking after a child with gastroenteritis
1. Encourage them to drink plenty of fluids. They need to replace the fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhea. Water is generally best. Avoid giving them fizzy drinks or fruit juice, as they can make their diarrhea worse. Babies should continue to feed as usual, either with breast milk or other milk feeds.
2. Make sure they get plenty of rest.
3. Let your child eat if they’re eating solids and feel hungry. Try small amounts of plain foods, such as soup, rice, pasta and bread.
4. Give them paracetamol if they have an uncomfortable fever or aches and pains. Young children may find liquid paracetamol easier to swallow than tablets.
5. Use special re-hydration drinks made from sachets bought from pharmacies if they’re dehydrated. Your GP or pharmacist can advise on how much to give your child. Don’t give them antimalarial and anti-vomiting medication, unless advised to by your GP or pharmacist.
How gastroenteritis is spread
The bugs that cause gastroenteritis can spread very easily from person to person.You can catch the infection if small particles of vomit or poo from an infected person get into your mouth, such as through
1. close contact with someone with gastroenteritis – they may breathe out small particles of vomit
2. touching contaminated surfaces or objects
3. eating contaminated food – this can happen if an infected person doesn’t wash their hands before handling food, or you eat food that has been in contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, or hasn’t been stored and cooked at the correct temperatures.
It’s not always possible to avoid getting gastroenteritis, but following the advice below can help stop it spreading:-
1. Stay off work, school or nursery until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have passed. You or your child should also avoid visiting anyone in hospital during this time.
2. Ensure you and your child wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, particularly after using the toilet and before preparing food. Don’t rely on alcohol hand gels, as they’re not always effective.
3. Disinfect any surfaces or objects that could be contaminated. It’s best to use a bleach-based household cleaner.
4. Wash contaminated items of clothing or bedding separately on a hot wash.
5. Don’t share towels, flannels, cutlery or utensils while you or your child is ill.
6. Flush away any poo or vomit in the toilet or potty and clean the surrounding area.
7. Practice good food hygiene. Make sure food is properly refrigerated, always cook your food thoroughly, and never eat food that is past its use-by date.
By (Dr. MD Rahmatullah Shuvo)