In most healthy adults, gastroenteritis is mild and brief
BY DR. KOMOROFF Universal Uclick
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
12/25/12 at 3:00 AM
Dear Doctor K: I was pretty sick recently, and my doctor said I had gastroenteritis. I've never had it before. How did I get it? And what can I do about it?
Dear Reader: I'll bet you've had gastroenteritis before, but your doctor didn't use that term. Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the intestines. It causes diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting.
You most likely got gastroenteritis through a viral or bacterial infection. Viral infections that cause gastroenteritis include the Norwalk virus, rotaviruses, adenoviruses and others. These viruses can spread from one person to another on unwashed hands, or by sharing food or eating utensils with an infected person.
Salmonella, shigella, E. coli and many other bacteria can also cause gastroenteritis. They can spread through close contact with an infected person, or by drinking or eating infected food or water.
In healthy adults, gastroenteritis tends to be mild. When it comes again, try the following until your symptoms subside:
If you have severe symptoms, your doctor may prescribe medications to ease your nausea, vomiting and diarrhea; intravenous fluids for dehydration; and antibiotics to treat bacterial infection.
- To prevent dehydration, drink water, soft drinks, sports drinks, broth or oral rehydration fluids. If you are unable to drink a lot at once, take smaller sips over a longer period.
- Once your nausea subsides, gradually resume a normal diet. Begin with clear soups, broth or sweetened gelatin desserts. Build up to rice, rice cereal and more substantial foods.
- Use over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medicines cautiously.
- Rest in bed.
To help prevent gastroenteritis in the future:
- Wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers.
- Wash your hands before and after preparing food, especially raw meat.
- Don't transfer cooked foods onto unwashed plates that held raw meat.
Write Dr. K at www.AskDoctorK.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut, Kansas City, MO 64106