Gastroenteritis (gastrointestinal infection or GEA) is an inflammation of the intestinal tract (stomach and intestine) that usually occurs with diarrhea and vomiting. It is caused by an infection, the intake of food in poor condition or even by stress. It is a widespread problem that affects primarily during childhood.
The symptoms of gastroenteritis usually start suddenly. The discomfort of a gastroenteritis varies according to the pathogen and can be mild or very intense. Other symptoms may include:
- Hot or cold sweats
- Loss of appetite
- Weakness and fatigue
- Diarrhea, often very liquid
- Pain in the abdomen (cramps)
- Fever, sometimes
Causes and Risk Factor
The leading causes of this disease are viruses such as norovirus (formerly called Norwalk virus). Aside from this virus, three other infections often cause gastroenteritis: rotavirus, astrovirus, and adenovirus, which tend to cause illness in infants and young children. Norovirus is responsible for the typical gastroenteritis seen in adults and older children. Rotavirus mainly affects young children aged 3 to 15 months. The adenovirus is the second most common cause of gastroenteritis in children under two years.
In older children and adults, the symptoms are very suggestive of the presence of viral gastroenteritis. Your doctor will ask you questions about these, and he will ask you since when you feel them.
Stool tests are sometimes done under certain circumstances where the doctor suspects another cause, such as food poisoning. In case of food poisoning, it is essential to identify with certainty the source of the contamination to prevent other people from becoming equally sick with the water or food involved.
People at Risk
Young children in daycare and seniors living in residence are at higher risk, as are healthy adults who work in hospitals.
How to cure gastroenteritis?
There are no drugs to treat viral gastroenteritis, and antibiotics are rarely prescribed to treat bacterial gastroenteritis. The symptoms often vanish on their own after a few days at most.
One avoids eating during the first day of illness at least. When food is reintroduced, white rice, broth, oatmeal, or other easily digestible foods are chosen.