Gastroenteritis or intestinal flu is an inflammation of the intestinal mucosa caused by a virus, bacteria or parasites. 
A virus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis. 
For example, norovirus infection and adenovirus are frequent causes of gastroenteritis in adults in the UK, but also other viruses can cause inflammation.

Gastroenteritis often affects children younger than 4 years of age and infants, in which case it is usually viral and the person responsible is rotavirus.


Causes of gastroenteritis

There are many organisms or substances that can cause gastroenteritis, including:

  • Viruses – such as norovirus, rotavirus, astrovirus, calicivirus and adenovirus.
  • Bacteria – like Campylobacter bacteria.
  • Parasites – for example, Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium.
  • Bacterial toxins – bacteria do not cause disease, but their toxic byproducts can contaminate food. Some strains of bacteria such as Staphylococcus produce toxins that can cause gastroenteritis.

It is possible to catch gastroenteritis in all seasons, even in the summer, but often the responsibility is the cold exposure.

Types of gastroenteritis

1. Acute lasts less than 2 weeks.
2. Persistent if it lasts longer than 2 weeks.
3. Chronicle lasts more than a month. 
 The eosinophilic gastroenteritis is a disease causing the symptoms stomach and intestine ( stomach ache , stomach pain , nausea , vomiting and diarrhea ) in an area characterized by infiltration of eosinophils leukocytes (white blood cells).


The symptoms of gastroenteritis are:

  • Diarrhea,
  • Sickness,
  • Abdominal pain and cramps ,
  • Vomiting.
  • Fever

The swollen belly is rarely noticeable .

Many people refer to gastroenteritis as an “intestinal virus.” 
This can sometimes be confused with the flu causing:

But the virus does not involve the gastrointestinal tract. 
The term “intestinal flu” assumes a viral infection, although there may be other causes. 
Viral infections are the most common cause of gastroenteritis, but bacteria, parasites and food poisoning (such as contaminated mussels and clams or raw or undercooked food) may be the cause of gastroenteritis. 
Anyone traveling abroad may have “traveler’s diarrhea” caused by contaminated food and impure water. 
The severity of infectious gastroenteritis depends on the immune system’s ability to resist infection. 
Mineral salts (including sodium, magnesium and potassium ) are prescribed when the individual has lots of diarrhea and vomiting.
Most people recover easily after a short episode of vomiting and diarrhea, drinking liquids and following a special diet. But for others, such as children and the elderly, the loss of body fluids can cause gastroenteritis with dehydration which is a dangerous disease except when recovering lost fluids.


How is the diagnosis of gastroenteritis diagnosed?

The doctor should evaluate the medical history to ensure that nothing else is causing the symptoms. 
In addition, your doctor may perform an abdominal or rectal exam to rule out inflammatory diseases (eg Crohn’s disease ) and pelvic abscesses (pus pockets). 
A culture of feces (a laboratory test to identify bacteria and other organisms from a stool sample) can be used to determine the germ that causes specific gastroenteritis or virus. 
Other diseases that can cause diarrhea and vomiting are pneumonia, septicemia (infection of the body), urinary tract infections, and meningitis (an infection that causes inflammation of the outer membranes of the brain or spinal cord). In addition, diseases requiring surgery, such as appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix), intussusception (a disease in which the intestine bends over itself causing intestinal obstruction ), and Hirschsprung’s disease (a disease lacking a part of the cells nerve on the intestinal walls) can cause similar symptoms of gastroenteritis.


How does gastroenteritis spread?

In most cases, the intestinal flu is highly contagious. The disease is mainly transmitted when the bacteria in the feces are transferred to the mouth. 
Bacteria can be transferred because of poor hygiene. For example, if someone does not wash their hands after going to the bathroom, any virus or bacteria on the hands is transferred to everything that touches, such as glass, kitchen utensils or food. 
It is possible to get infection from viruses or bacteria if we touch a contaminated object and then touch the face, or eat contaminated food. 
Once infected, we notice the symptoms of gastroenteritis, such as vomiting and diarrhea. 
In the case of gastroenteritis, do not need to return to work up to 48 hours after the stool comes back solid to avoid transmission from person to person.


What is the incubation period?

The incubation period usually ranges from 1 to 3 days, but in case of adenovirus infection it can last for a week.


How are foods contaminated with the gastroenteritis virus?

Foods can be contaminated by cooks or the staff that is in the kitchen with the viral gastroenteritis, especially if they do not wash their hands regularly after using the toilet. Seafood can be contaminated with dirty water, people who eat raw or undercooked seafood or fish in contaminated water may have diarrhea. Drinking water can also be contaminated by sewage and is a source of these viruses.


What is the treatment for gastroenteritis in adults?

The symptoms usually pass within a few days, this is the period in which the immune system eliminates viruses and bacteria. 
You rarely need hospitalization, only if the symptoms are severe or if they develop complications.

Tips for Relieving Your Symptoms
-You have to drink lots of fluids. 
The goal is to prevent dehydration or treat dehydration for sufferers. 
As a guideline, we should drink at least 200 ml after each attack of diarrhea. 
This fluid should be added to the one that is normally drunk. 
For example, an adult usually drinks about two liters more per day in hot countries. 
The Council of drinking 200 ml more after each attack of diarrhea are to be added to the amount that is usually drink. 
If you vomit, wait 5-10 minutes and then start drinking again, but more slowly. 
For example, a sip every 2-3 minutes, but paying attention to the total intake that should be as described above.
Whoever is dehydrated should drink more. The doctor tells you how much dehydrated patients should drink. 
For many adults, drinking liquids to maintain idratation should be mainly water and possibly a soup. It is best not to drink drinks that contain too much sugar, such as glue glue, since it can sometimes worsen diarrhea. 
Moisturizing drinks (eg, Powerade) are recommended for people who are weak or older than 60 with other health problems. 
They are found in bottles that can be purchased at pharmacies or supermarkets. 
They are available with a prescription. 
Rehydration with drinks gives a good balance of water, minerals and sugars.
The small amount of sugar and salt water helps to be better absorbed in the gut, but does not reduce or for diarrhea. 
Do not use home-made salt / sugar drinks provided that the amount of salt and sugar should be provided exactly.


Medications for intestinal flu


Anti-secretory medications are designed to be used with rehydration therapy. 
They reduce the amount of water released in the gut during an episode of diarrhea. 
It is advisable not to eat for a while in case of gastroenteritis. 
It needs to be driven by appetite. 
Eat as soon as you are able, but never stop drinking. Who wants to eat should avoid greasy, spicy or heavy foods in the first phase. Foods like brown bread and rice do well at first. 
Generally, diarrhea medications are not needed. 
However, it is best to take to reduce the number of toilet trips. 
It is possible to buy medicine against diarrhea in the pharmacy. One of the most effective and most widely used is loperamide.

The adult dose is two capsules with each attack of diarrhea, for a maximum period of 8 tablets per day. So it is alternating to one tablet with each attack. 
It works by decreasing bowel activity. 
Loperamide should not be taken for more than five consecutive days. 
Note: do not give medicines against diarrhea to children under 12 years. 
In addition, you can not use drugs against diarrhea if the stool contains blood or mucus  or in case of a high fever . 
People with certain diseases should not take loperamide. 
Therefore, read the accompanying package leaflet to be sure. 
For example, pregnant women should not take loperamide.
Paracetamol and ibuprofen (Advil) are helpful in relieving high fever or headache. 
As explained above, if the symptoms are severe or persist for several days, your doctor may ask for a stool exam that will be sent to the lab to look for microbes that have caused the infection. 
Sometimes antibiotic or other treatment is needed if bacteria are the cause of the disease. 
Antibiotics are contraindicated for gastroenteritis caused by viruses because they can aggravate the situation.


How long does gastroenteritis last?

The prognosis for acute viral gastroenteritis is 2-5 days but often goes by within a week. 
If symptoms persist for at least 2 weeks, you need to consider other diseases. 
Bacterial gastroenteritis can last for a few weeks. 
Usually the symptoms have gradually improved, but for a month you may have a loss of appetite , extreme fatigue  and drowsiness after meals, especially after a hearty meal. 
It is important not to be frightened if at night after eating your temperature reaches 37 °. 
It is not considered a fever until this level.


Natural Remedies

The intestinal flora is essential for the proper functioning of the intestine. Unfortunately, diarrhea can also rule out the “good” bacteria that help digestion. 
To restore bacterial flora there are lactic acid supplements like Yovis which are very useful and effective.


What can a person with gastroenteritis eat?

Dieting is one of the most important aspects of treatment. 
The first few days should fast at least 3 days or when the fever passes. 
These days you have to drink lots of water. 
When the patient feels better, he should start to eat the juicy fruits: oranges, melon, watermelon, etc. and vegetables: carrots, celery, green leaves and vegetables. 
Then you can add whole grains and after 5/7 days you can resume the previous diet, preferably vegan or raw food to restore intestinal health.

After the first few days, you can eat an apple or two a day, it does good to the stomach. 
To relieve abdominal cramps , you can take scopolamine (Buscopan ®).


Prevention of gastroenteritis

General tips for reducing the risk of gastroenteritis:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after going to the bathroom or after changing a diaper, after smoking , after wearing a handkerchief or after touching the animals.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before preparing food or eating.
  • Use a paper towel to dry your hands instead of cloth towel because the bacteria can survive for a while in the objects.
  • Do not handle raw and cooked foods with the same utensils (pliers, knives, cutting boards) unless they are washed thoroughly.
  • Clean all kitchen surfaces and utensils.
  • Keep cold foods below 5 ° C and hot foods above 60 ° C to stop bacteria from growing.
  • Make sure the food is well cooked.
  • Clean the toilet and bathroom regularly, especially the toilet lid, door knobs and faucets.
  • Clean children’s clothing regularly.
  • When traveling abroad, in countries where hygiene is suspected, drink only bottled water without ice.
  • Do not forget to brush your teeth with bottled water. Avoid buffet foods, raw foods, peeled fruits and vegetables.
  • During breastfeeding, there are risks of infection from mother to child, or vice versa, but we must be careful about any skin lesions.

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