What is gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis, commonly called the 'stomach flu', is a short-term infection that affects the digestive system. It can be triggered by a range of different causes, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, bacterial toxins, chemicals and certain medications.

You can get it from eating or drinking contaminated food or water or from viruses such as the rotavirus and norovirus. It can appear within one to three days after you're infected and symptoms can range from mild to severe. While symptoms usually last just a day or two, they can occasionally last for up to 14 days. Gastroenteritis is also highly contagious.

Signs and symptoms

Some common symptoms of gastroenteritis include:

  • Stomach cramps or pain

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhoea

  • Bloating

  • Low-grade fever

  • Loss of appetite

  • Lethargy and body aches.

How to treat it?

Ways to treat gastroenteritis include:

  • Drinking lots of fluids to help prevent dehydration

  • Antibiotics, if bacteria are the cause

  • Rehydration fluids from a pharmacy

  • Eating small amounts of food often if you feel nauseous such as plain crackers or bread; avoiding fatty, spicy and oily foods which can upset the stomach even more

  • In severe cases, you may need to go to the hospital where you may be given intravenous fluids.

How to prevent it?

You can reduce the risk of infection by:

  • Staying at home while you're sick, until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water before preparing food or eating to reduce the spread of bacteria. Also wash your hands after going to the bathroom and after changing nappies.

  • Clean kitchen utensils thoroughly between uses especially if they have handled meat.

  • There is a rotavirus vaccine for babies and children that provides protection for up to five years.

Related reading:

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Information sourced from: Better Health Channel, HealthDirect and MayoClinic.

Image credit: Pixabay at Pexels

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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