Known as gastroenteritis, it is a non-specific term used for various gastrointestinal tract problems, with the symptoms and signs being diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
Stomach infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and even parasites.
Are gastroenteritis and food poisoning the same condition?
Although gastroenteritis and food poisoning share some common symptoms, such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, stomach cramps, muscle aches, for example, they are not the same:
- Gastroenteritis means any non-specific inflammatory problem in the gastrointestinal tract; Some doctors consider gastroenteritis more narrowly defined as a viral infection that attacks the digestive system.
- Food poisoning is explicitly caused by eating or drinking contaminated food or liquids that contain bacteria, viruses, parasites, and the toxins that they produce.
Consequently, there is some crossover between the two terms. In addition:
- Poisoning is usually found in small outbreaks between individuals who have eaten the same foods or drinks, and symptoms quickly occur within hours.
- Gastroenteritis is highly contagious and can spread quickly to other people, whereas food poisoning generally requires ingestion of the poison and is not easily spread to other people.
What are the signs and symptoms of a stomach infection?
The signs and symptoms of gastroenteritis can vary depending on the cause:
- The main symptom of viral gastroenteritis is diarrhea (without blood).
- Nausea, vomiting, and some abdominal cramps can accompany diarrhea.
- In some people with viral gastroenteritis, a mild fever (about 100 ° F or 37.77 ° C), chills, headache, and muscle aches may occur, along with feeling tired.
- Vomiting is occasional.
- Symptoms generally last 2 to 5 days and then resolve with viral gastroenteritis.
- Bacterial gastroenteritis shares many of the symptoms of the stomach flu virus, but in some individuals, the bacteria can cause bloody diarrhea (hemorrhagic gastroenteritis).
Symptoms can occur in some people with viral or bacterial gastroenteritis. Signs can also be seen with other causes of gastroenteritis (medications, food allergies, toxins), for example:
- Abdominal pain.
- Muscle pains.
- Eosinophilia (mainly in allergic gastroenteritis).
- Loss of electrolytes.
- Severe gastroenteritis means that the person has signs of dehydration; This is a medical emergency.
What are the signs and symptoms of stomach infection in children?
Children with gastroenteritis or gastroenteritis usually have diarrhea, but they may have other symptoms, such as:
- She was refusing to eat or drink or being very thirsty.
- Increased or low or even no urine production.
- Bloody diarrhea
- Pinched skin that doesn’t quickly return to normal is a sign of dehydration and less fluid intake.
How is gastroenteritis spread?
Most viral and bacterial causes of gastroenteritis can be transferred to others by direct and indirect contact, usually by the fecal and oral route:
- Direct contact could involve a baby’s hand touching stool-contaminated surfaces and touching a sibling or family member.
- Indirect contact would be like touching a doorknob or railing on a cruise ship or contaminated bedroom. The person feels the dirty surface and transfers the agent by touching their mouth.
- Another common way to get gastroenteritis is by drinking or ingesting contaminated food and fluids.
Who can get gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis is a common disease throughout the world. Almost everyone suffers from it sometimes because it is nearly impossible to avoid contact with some viral and bacterial causes.
- People living in crowded conditions (military, cruise ships, dormitories) are at higher risk than people living in developing countries who often have a diet containing contaminated food or water.
- Infants, children, and some adults (the elderly, immunosuppressed) are at increased risk due to depressed or immature systems and can become dehydrated faster than older children and adults.
- Some people who take antibiotics are at higher risk because antibiotics depress normal gastrointestinal microbes and allow bacteria or viruses like Clostridium difficile to predominate and cause illness.
- People who do not practice good hygiene and handwashing techniques are at higher risk, such as those who eat cooked and unwashed food or drink from potentially contaminated fluid sources (rivers, streams, unpasteurized milk, for example).
How long does gastroenteritis last?
Depending on the cause of gastroenteritis, it can be considered acute or chronic:
- Acute (viral) gastroenteritis lasts 7 to 14 days and then usually heals independently.
- Chronic gastroenteritis (for example, allergic gastroenteritis) can last for months or longer if it is not diagnosed and treated correctly.
Is gastroenteritis contagious?
- The vast majority of gastroenteritis causes (viral and bacterial) are contagious, usually through contamination of food or water. In addition, they can be transferred from person to person.
- Exposures of bodily fluids (for example, feces or droplets containing infectious agents) are familiar sources that transmit the disease to others.
- Some causes of gastroenteritis are not contagious, for example, food allergies or the side effects of medications.
What Causes Stomach Infection?
Bacteria and viruses (infectious agents) (the most common cause) are the most common causes of gastroenteritis in the US and worldwide. Infections cause diarrhea and other symptoms by causing gastrointestinal (GI) tissue inflammation.
Infections increase the fluid content in the intestines and colon by modifying the ability of the digestive tract to absorb water and by increasing the speed of transit (motility) of the things we eat.
This, in turn, causes diarrhea. Infectious agents can physically damage intestinal cells directly or indirectly with secreted toxins.
What are the most common causes of stomach infections?
Viral causes of gastroenteritis
The most common cause of gastroenteritis in the US and the world is norovirus. It causes approximately 50% to 70% of viral gastroenteritis cases, while rotavirus strains, astrovirus, adenovirus, and sapovirus cause most other viral gastroenteritis infections.
Norovirus is also listed as the leading cause of gastroenteritis in children under five years of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Bacterial causes of gastroenteritis
The bacterial causes of gastroenteritis worldwide are Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter Aeromonas, and Escherichia coli (E. coli). Other bacteria such as Clostridium, Vibrio, Campylobacter, and Yersinia spp can cause outbreaks from time to time.
Occasionally, some bacterial causes of gastroenteritis (for example, Salmonella and certain strains of E. coli) can cause bloody or bloody diarrhea.
Parasitic causes of gastroenteritis
Parasites like Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and Entamoeba infections can cause gastroenteritis, and occasionally other parasites have outbreaks like the Cyclospora outbreak between 2012 and 2013 in the US.
Other causes of gastroenteritis
There are many other less common causes of gastroenteritis or stomach infections, such as food allergies (eosinophilic gastroenteritis), antibiotics, and toxins. The symptoms of gastroenteritis are often listed as possible side effects of many medications.
How is food contaminated with bacteria or viruses that cause gastroenteritis?
In most cases, food and drink come into contact with feces contaminated with the infectious agent. This can happen in food and beverage transportation, storage, and processing.
In processed foods and beverages, this contamination is relatively rare. Still, a disease outbreak is often traced to faulty equipment, human errors in processing, and disruption of quality control procedures when it does occur.
How do you know if you have gastroenteritis?
There are no specific tests for gastroenteritis, so gastroenteritis is most often diagnosed by the symptoms it produces, primarily diarrhea. Because gastroenteritis is generally a self-limited disease, most people are never seen or diagnosed by a doctor.
However, during outbreaks like those seen on cruise ships, viral and bacterial cultures or PCR and other immunological tests can eventually identify the pathogen causing the stomach infection.
By the time this identification occurs, most people with gastroenteritis have begun to recover.
When the symptoms of gastroenteritis become severe, most public health officials and health professionals perform such tests to identify the causative agent of a specific disease based on the entire history of patients, physical examinations, and the symptoms.
Also, patients with similar stories of recent foods or drinks that they shared with others often help discover the source of the illness (for example, people who had diarrhea had salads from the same food source).
What Home and Natural Remedies Help Soothe Stomach Infection Symptoms?
There are many natural and home remedies that can help reduce the symptoms of gastroenteritis:
- Treatment at home consists of an adequate intake of fluids, so dehydration is avoided.
- Clear liquids are recommended (Pedialyte, especially for young children, Gatorade, PowerAde, and other sports drinks), but not fruit or milk juices as they can prolong symptoms.
- Sodium bicarbonate.
- Apple cider vinegar.
- Chamomile tea.
- Probiotics: Lactobacillus casei GG and S boulardii can be helpful in some cases of viral gastroenteritis and can help with watery diarrhea. Yogurts contain these probiotics.
If dehydration occurs, the patient should be evaluated immediately by a physician. Discuss home remedies with your doctor before using them.
What foods are recommended to eat (diet) when you have gastroenteritis?
Some health professionals suggest a special diet for gastroenteritis, especially for viral and bacterial infections in children. First and foremost is adequate fluid rehydration to avoid dehydration.
The frequently suggested diet is called the “BRAT” diet. This diet consists of foods that are generally not irritating but soothing to the gastrointestinal tract. The BRAT diet stands for banana, rice, applesauce, and toast.
Although some physicians think that this diet may not benefit patients markedly, others recommend it for both adults and children for a day or two to transition the symptoms of acute gastroenteritis to the patient’s previously regular diet.
What is the treatment for gastroenteritis?
Most people with gastroenteritis do not require or need formal treatment. Proper hydration is key to a safe and fast recovery at home (home remedy).
If dehydration occurs, the patient should be evaluated by a physician. Many healthcare professionals choose to start with intravenous fluids, the treatment of choice for rapid rehydration.
Other medications may be prescribed to reduce the symptoms of gastroenteritis. To reduce vomiting, promethazine (Phenergan), prochlorperazine (Compazine), or ondansetron (Zofran) are often used.
Some doctors suggest using these agents only as a suppository or a rapidly disintegrating tablet on the tongue as patients may vomit the pills.
Others may prescribe diphenoxylate and atropine (Lomotil) or lopermadine (Imodium) to decrease diarrhea, while others may not, as the medications can prolong illness.
Many doctors recommend not receiving medical treatment for gastroenteritis symptoms as all medications have side effects, and if the patient is well hydrated, the symptoms will usually clear up promptly.
As gastroenteritis symptoms, especially vomiting, subside, doctors may recommend a BRAT (bananas, rice, apples, and toast) diet for a day or two before returning to the patient’s usual diet.
Potatoes, lean meat like chicken, and whole grains can help replace and replenish nutrients and electrolytes lost with diarrhea.
Patients with more severe symptoms other than gastroenteritis should be evaluated, diagnosed, and treated by a doctor because the patient is likely to have a specific disease that will need treatment.
Treatment will depend on the cause of the disease (salmonellosis or Clostridium difficile toxin). Antibiotics and other medicines may not be recommended for some conditions, so an accurate diagnosis is essential.
For patients infected with Clostridium difficile, an antibiotic sensitivity test may be necessary to determine the most effective antibiotics to use.
What specialties of doctors treat gastroenteritis?
Most people with gastroenteritis caused by mild or viral bacteria do not require treatment or can be treated by the patient’s primary care provider or pediatrician.
Infectious disease specialists, gastroenterologists, emergency medicine specialists, allergists, critical care physicians, and hematologists can be consulted for more patients with more severe gastroenteritis.
When Should You Contact Your Doctor About Gastroenteritis?
If gastroenteritis symptoms last more than about five days, increase in severity (fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.33 Centigrade or higher), or a person develops bloody diarrhea, dehydration, constant abdominal pain, or other symptoms, see a doctor.
The patient may have some symptoms of gastroenteritis but may have a more severe illness than self-limited gastroenteritis.
Signs and symptoms of dehydration can include specific problems such as decreased or even no urine output, dry mucous membranes, dry mouth or skin, no tears, weakness, lightheadedness, and low blood pressure.
While children may show little or no urination, they become lethargic; they have skin that “lifts” when pinched. The signs of dehydration in anyone are good reasons to see a doctor right away.
What are the complications of stomach infection?
Most patients who develop gastroenteritis do not have complications and make a full recovery.
The main complication for some patients is dehydration; Babies, children, the elderly, and the immunosuppressed are at increased risk for this complication.
In many third-world countries, hydration of babies is difficult at best, which is why there are many infant deaths around the world due to dehydration caused by stomach infections.
Can you avoid getting gastroenteritis?
No diet prevents gastroenteritis, but food preparation plays a vital role in preventing gastroenteritis. In general, there are some actions that people can take to avoid or reduce the chance of getting gastroenteritis, including:
- Washing hands, especially before eating and after any close association with an infected person or items (clothing, bedding, toys) that they have touched.
- Wash items that infected people wear daily.
- Avoid direct contact with infected people when possible.
- Don’t eat undercooked foods, especially meats.
- Don’t eat raw food or drink untreated water.
- Do not drink untreated or unpasteurized liquids, especially milk.
- Thoroughly wash any product, especially in third world countries, before eating.
- While traveling, avoid all raw foods and ice; drink only from sealed bottled products, and use bottled water to brush your teeth.
A vaccine available against rotavirus has reduced this infection in children. Also, a vaccine is available against cholera-causing bacteria (Vibrio), but it is not widely known.
A clinical trial of a Norovirus vaccine was conducted with some success. Commercial vaccines against some causes are likely to be available shortly.
What is the prognosis for a person who gets a stomach infection?
The prognosis for a full recovery is excellent in most people infected with gastroenteritis caused by viruses and bacteria, as long as the person is well hydrated.
Because infants, children, pregnant women, immunosuppressed adults, and older adults generally dehydrate faster than healthy adults and are sometimes more challenging to rehydrate by mouth, your outlook may vary from excellent to poor.
The success of the prognosis depends on how dehydrated they become and how effective the attempts to rehydrate the patient are.