Learn Some Information about Gastroenteritis

· January 14, 2019
By being wary of possible ways to transmit or contract this condition, you can make sure that you never have to worry about it.

Gastroenteritis is a clinical condition that can give you diarrhea and vomiting as a result of inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Learn some information about gastroenteritis in this article!

Information about gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is a condition that results in diarrhea and vomiting caused by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. In addition to these symptoms, abdominal pain and cramping may occur, and more severe cases can cause severe dehydration.

The most frequent cause of gastroenteritis is infectious. In this sense, the most common source of microorganisms are viruses in children and bacteria in adults.

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Who is affected?

A man with gastroenteritis.

Gastroenteritis is currently one of the most common conditions worldwide, with between 3 and 5 billion cases a year. It’s one of the main reasons for medical appointments in developed countries, which means it has a huge economic impact.

The greatest risk of infection is during rainy seasons or winter, due to a decrease in water quality.

It can affect any person, but the most affected group of individuals is children, especially those under 5 years of age, as adults have developed acquired immunity.

As part of the information about gastroenteritis you should know, developing countries have a high incidence rate of this condition. This is often due to cholera since there are many areas with bad hygiene where the waters are contaminated.

Causes of gastroenteritis

A child with gastroenteritis.

As mentioned above, viruses and bacteria are the main causes of the condition, although some gastroenteritis cases are caused by parasites. There is a lower percentage of cases of non-infectious origins, such as Crohn’s disease or lactose intolerance.

Virus

  • Rotavirus
  • Norovirus
  • Adenovirus
  • Astrovirus

Rotavirus is the main infectious agent in children, since the risk of infection is also very high due to their lack of immunity and their lower level of hygiene. In adults, the main cause of gastroenteritis is norovirus, especially in America.

Viruses are responsible for more than 70% of infectious diarrhea in childhood because children’s immune systems aren’t as developed as adults.

Bacteria

  • Escherichia coli.
  • Campylobacter jejuni.
  • Salmonella.
  • Clostridium difficile.
  • Vibrio cholerae.

Bacteria often cause gastroenteritis due to food contamination. If the food is kept at room temperature, bacteria will proliferate and the chances of getting an infection will increase.

Vibrio cholerae causes cholera. Contaminated food and/or water transmits this disease. Cholera is a major cause of gastroenteritis, especially in African and Asian countries.

The use of antibiotics, sometimes, also favors the manifestation of gastroenteritis. One of the causes of diarrhea in the elderly and in hospitalized patients is a Clostridium difficile infection.

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How is it transmitted?

Some information about gastroenteritis includes the transmission of the disease, which can occur through various mechanisms, the most common being that it’s contracted through physical contact with infected people or through water or contaminated food.

The greatest risk of infection occurs during rainy seasons or during winter, due to the decrease in water quality.

Transmission is also associated with poor hygiene and malnutrition, which usually occur in children. However, the causes of gastroenteritis are so diverse that it’s impossible to define a single method of transmission.

Incubation period

A woman with diarrhea.

The symptoms of gastroenteritis usually appear 1 to 3 days after contracting the infection.

The duration of gastroenteritis is variable. Diarrhea and vomiting usually disappear between the first 3 and 8 days. However, if not treated properly, diarrhea may end up being chronic.

On the other hand, it’s noteworthy that adults can develop tolerance, so they can be carriers of some infectious agents and not have an infection. In other words, individuals can continue to be contagious after the symptomatic period, so it’s necessary to keep up precautionary measures.

Symptoms of gastroenteritis

  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhea: When the cause is bacterial, blood may appear in the stool.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Cramps.

Viral gastroenteritis can also cause fever, tiredness, and muscle pain.

Complications

The most common complication of gastroenteritis is dehydration as a consequence of diarrhea. Dehydration is classified as mild (<5%), moderate (5 – 9%), and severe (> 10%).

In moderate and severe dehydration, sunken eyes, lack of tears, and dry mouth are present. In addition, the individual is less active and the skin loses its elasticity.

Differential diagnosis

  • Volvulus.
  • Diabetes.
  • Appendicitis.
  • Celiac disease.
  • Food poisoning.
  • Abuse of laxative intake.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

The diagnosis of gastroenteritis is clinical, so it’s necessary to rule out other pathologies.

Treatment

A woman drinking water.

The treatment of gastroenteritis is based mainly on rehydration and good nutrition. It’s not advisable to consume sugary drinks because they could worsen the diarrhea.

Oral rehydration salts or pure water can be used to rehydrate the affected individual.

It’s recommended to keep a normal diet, decreasing one’s intake of sugars and increasing one’s intake of probiotics. Some cases of gastroenteritis could be treated with antiemetics, antibiotics, and antispasmodics, but this is unusual.

Prevention and vaccination

The main preventive measures are good hygiene and the consumption of non-contaminated water and food. Washing one’s hands decreases the incidence of gastroenteritis by up to 30%.

Currently, rotavirus vaccination programs are being carried out, which are proving to be very effective worldwide.

We hope you enjoyed learning some information about gastroenteritis!