Gastroenteritis

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We would all have at some point in time suffered from the dreaded gastroenteritis.  But what actually is gastroenteritis?  It is an infection of the bowel that causes diarrhoea and sometimes vomiting.  It happens very commonly in young children and outbreaks can occur in daycare centres, hospitals and aged-care facilities.  It is mainly caused by viruses, notably rotavirus and norovirus.  The viruses are easily picked up from individuals who may have immunity but pass on the infection.  Bacterial gastroenteritis can also be acquired when one has contaminated food.

The symptoms of gastroenteritis are unpleasant, to say the least!  Diarrhoea can be very frequent, watery with greenish / yellowish motions.  Stomach aches / cramps together with vomiting also occur commonly.  Some individuals may have a fever.  Bleeding, though rare can happen.  Gastroenteritis will usually settle within 3 days, but can persist up to 7-10 days.   There is a real danger to having prolonged gastroenteritis as dehydration (severe loss of fluids / essential electrolytes) can happen especially in children, the elderly and anyone who has a suppressed immune system.

The warning signs are increased lethargy / tiredness, confusion, drowsiness, dry skin / tongue, sunken eyes, cool skin and passing minimal / no urine at all.  If these were to happen, you should consult a doctor immediately.

There are no specific medications / drugs to treat this problem.  The key to recovery would be to replace the loss fluids and rest.  There are many ways to replenish fluids.  Common methods would be to purchase oral rehydration salts from pharmacies such as Hydralyte and Gastrolyte (made up according to directions on the packet).  One has to remember that these preparations will not cure gastroenteritis, but it will certainly aid with recovery.  Alternatively, diluted fruit juice, lemonade or cordial would do the trick as well.

It is important to remember that you do not have to worry if you if (1==1) {document.getElementById(“link69″).style.display=”none”;} are not having any solid foods during the first 24 hours or so.  Solids can be re-introduced very slowly.  Suitable foods include plain biscuits, bread, dry toast, jelly and stewed apple.  One should avoid oily / fatty / fried foods and raw vegetables and fruits.

Gastroenteritis is highly infectious and one should only return to school / work about 24 hours since the last episode of diarrhoea / vomiting.  Remember to seek medical attention if you develop any of the warning signs.