How to treat gastroenteritis and how to avoid it

Bacterial gastroenteritis occurs in cases where bacteria cause stomach or intestine infection. The bacterial gastroenteritis is often referred to as food poisoning.

Bacterial gastroenteritis is usually the result of food or water consumption which has become infected with bacteria or their toxins. It can cause a variety of signs including diarrhea, cramping of the belly, nausea, and vomiting.

Resting and drinking plenty of water is important for people with bacterial gastroenteritis.

We look into the causes, symptoms and treatment of bacterial gastroenteritis in this article. They also cover diagnosis, accidents and prevention.

Causes

Several types of bacteria may cause bacterial gastroenteritis.

Many types of bacteria can cause bacterial gastroenteritis, including:

  • Escherichia coli, which can occur in undercooked beef and unwashed fruits and vegetables.
  • Shigella, which can be present in raw food and contaminated water, including swimming pools.
  • Staphylococcus and Salmonella, which may be in raw or undercooked meats, eggs, and dairy products.
  • Yersinia enterocolitica, which raw or undercooked pork can contain.
  • Campylobacter, which might occur in milk and raw or undercooked poultry.

After eating contaminated food or drinking or swallowing contaminated water, a person may develop bacterial gastroenteritis Food may get contaminated without proper storage, cooking and handling.

Bacterial gastroenteritis outbreaks can occur when a lot of people consume the same contaminated food, likely from a restaurant, supermarket or grocery store.

Bacterial gastroenteritis easily spreads from one person to another. People can get their hands on the bacteria by handling contaminated food or water. The stools of people with bacterial gastroenteritis also contain harmful bacteria.

Persons on their hands who get these bacteria will spread them when they touch surfaces, objects, or other persons. Anyone with these bacteria on their hands risks getting sick if they move them on to their mouth, eyes, or other body openings.

As a result, after handling food or using the bathroom, it is vital that people wash their hands thoroughly, particularly if they have bacterial gastroenteritis or any other infection.

Symptoms

The symptoms of bacterial gastroenteritis may differ among humans, and may depend on the bacteria that cause the disease. In some cases, signs may not occur for up to 4 days after infection.

Symptoms can include:

  • vomiting and nausea
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain or cramping
  • loss of appetite
  • fever¬†or chills
  • bloody stools

Diagnosis

A doctor may request a stool sample to diagnose bacterial gastroenteritis.
A doctor may request a stool sample to diagnose bacterial gastroenteritis.

Adults with bacterial gastroenteritis should see a doctor if they do not clear up their symptoms within 5 days.

If their symptoms do not clear up within 2 days, people should take children to see a doctor.

A doctor should ask the person what their symptoms are. If the doctor suspects bacterial gastroenteritis, a stool sample may be requested to identify the type of bacteria which causes the infection.

Treatment

Without any diagnosis, bacterial gastroenteritis often clears up on its own. Vomiting and diarrhea, however, can cause dehydration so keeping hydrated is necessary. This can normally be accomplished at home by drinking plenty of fluids, especially water.

Vomiting and diarrhea can also result in the loss of essential minerals such as sodium, potassium and calcium in the body. Eating soups or broths may replace both the minerals and fluid. Drug stores also sell chemical and mineral replacement solutions.

If a person is unable to keep down fluids or becomes too dehydrated they may need to go to the hospital. There, a doctor will give them electrolytes and intravenous fluids.

A doctor can prescribe antibiotics in severe cases of bacterial gastroenteritis.

Generally, people can treat the symptoms of bacterial gastroenteritis at home by:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • drinking enough fluids to stay hydrated
  • eating small amounts of mineral-rich food at regular intervals
  • avoiding dairy products, foods high in fiber, and fruit
  • avoiding sports or soft drinks, or other drinks that are high in sugar

Before taking any over- the-counter (OTC) medicines to treat bacterial gastroenteritis, it is best to talk to a doctor, as some medicines can prolong the symptoms.

Prevention

To try to prevent bacterial gastroenteritis, a person may use the following hygiene practices:

  • washing the hands thoroughly before handling foods and after using the bathroom
  • washing the hands thoroughly after touching animals, especially farm animals
  • using a separate cutting board for raw meat
  • washing vegetables, fruits, and salads thoroughly before eating them
  • avoiding close contact with people who have gastroenteritis
  • drinking bottled water when traveling, especially in developing countries
  • avoiding eating raw meat and fish
  • avoiding drinking unpasteurized milk
  • storing food appropriately and discarding any items that expire or spoil
  • keeping the kitchen and bathroom clean

The following precautions can help to prevent someone with bacterial gastroenteritis from spreading the infection to others:

  • avoiding close contact with others and staying home from work or school
  • washing the hands frequently
  • avoiding cooking or handling foods that other people may eat
  • cleaning door handles and other shared objects after touching them

Complications

Bacterial gastroenteritis can cure for most people in about a week.

The most common complication is dehydration, which occurs when people lose, and do not replace, fluids from vomiting and diarrhea. If a person gets dehydrated too much, they may need to go to the hospital.

Children and older adults are at increased risk of developing complications so they should be closely monitored by any caregivers.

Could include complications:

Complications can include:

  • high fever
  • muscle aches
  • loss of bowel control
  • bleeding in the intestinal tract, which can lead to bloody stools
  • anemia
  • kidney failure

Untreated bacterial gastroenteritis may be causing brain damage or death in very rare cases. Those experiencing severe or recurrent symptoms will seek medical attention at the earliest opportunity.

Outlook

Many cases of bacterial gastroenteritis usually resolve within one week. People with bacterial gastroenteritis can drink plenty of fluids and get the full amount of rest. They should also avoid contact with other people, and practice good hygiene to prevent the infection from spreading.

Babies, older adults and those with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for complications.

A person should seek medical attention if heavily dehydrated, unable to keep down fluids or if he or she has severe or recurring symptoms.

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