Gastroenteritis is an infection of the digestive system. Food poisoning is also a form of gastroenteritis. The course of the illness can vary depending on the bug that causes it.
Gastro (in short) is a type of intestinal infection. The inflammation of intestines (gastroenteritis) is usually ignited by infection- bacteria, parasites and viruses are common cause of it. Medications such as antibiotics, cancer drugs and aspirin are other factors.
Some other sources of infection are untreated drinking water supplies, improperly prepared food, reheated meat dishes, seafood and bakery and dairy products. Even heavy-duty iron supplements can act like as incendiary device.
Many infections are caused due to common bacteria e.g. E. coli that frequently thrives on the hands of people who don’t wash them after using the toilet. At least 50% of cases of gastroenteritis are due to food borne illness.
It is common for river swimmers to become infected during times of rains as a result of contaminated run-off water. Incidence is 1:1000 people. Hence personal hygiene and general cleanness is very important in preventing gastroenteritis.
Symptoms of Gastroenteritis
- Abdominal pain.
- Minor epidemic (disease that spreads quickly among many people) of vomiting.
- Diarrhea occurs from time to time.
Preventive Measures For Gastroenteritis
- Avoid ice cubes. Drink and clean your teeth with bottled water only.
- Avoid locally made ice creams, milk and milk shakes, salads, unpeeled fruit salad, rice and shell fish.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap frequently and before eating.
- Get immunized against Hepatitis A if you are going to risky areas.
- Always carry sachets of re-hydration salts when you go on a holiday or work related travel.
- Fatty foods and dairy products such as milk, ice-cream and cheese should be avoided when you are having bouts of gastroenteritis.
- It is not easy to prevent the recurrence of gastroenteritis when we are probably not sure which bug caused the flare-up. But simply because food poisoning is so easy to get from our own kitchen, so as a general precaution one should regularly disinfect all kitchen surfaces and cutting boards etc. with bleach.
- One should avoid raw eggs and cook chicken and turkey at high temperature and never put cooked meat back on the same plate that held it, when it was raw. Failing to follow above method in practice is actually a major cause of food poisoning.
- High fat foods trigger the wave like intestinal contractions necessary for digestion. Normally that’s not a problem but when the intestine is already cramping from gastroenteritis, the increased action may well double us over in agony.
Home Remedies For Gastroenteritis In Children
- If diarrhea occurs when you return from a holiday, it is important to get your stools examined.
- Babies are more at risk due to dehydration. So give them plenty of fluids.
- All foods including cow’s milk and artificial milk formulas should be stopped during the initial stages of diarrhea.
- Give oral re-hydration and then later breastfeed. After twenty four hours when symptoms subside you can start normal diet gradually.
- Anti-diarrhea mixtures contain chemicals which can cause drastic side effects on babies and small children. So avoid them. If it prolongs over a long period then doctors may prescribe a safe preparation.
- Poor hygiene can spread the disease easily. So maintain cleanliness and wash your hands frequently.
- Re-hydration powders are made with boiled and cooled water and are very helpful. They replace the salts lost during vomiting and diarrhea. Many children do not like the taste and so should be allowed to drink through a straw.
When You Should See The Doctor?
- If pains and contractions seem to be connected to any medication the child may be taking, check with your doctor, who should be able to switch medications, thus providing quick relief.
- You should be worried about dehydration when vomiting is persistent. Symptoms are dry mouth or tongue, nappies are dry and the baby’s soft spot on the head becomes sunken.
- If the vomiting is becoming very forceful.
- If the child looks exerted and is least interested in anything.
- Bleeding with the bowel motion.