Gastroenteritis is a common condition that affects the gut. It refers to the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that includes the stomach and the intestines. The major cause of gastroenteritis is the entry of bacteria or virus (more common) through contaminated food and water causing bacterial or viral infection. This condition is usually mild and self-limiting and does not require any medical treatment. However, if the condition becomes severe or if the symptoms persist for a long time, medical attention should be provided.
Signs and symptoms
The following are the common signs and symptoms of gastroenteritis.
- Diarrhea: Passage of three or more liquid stools per day
- Blood or mucus in the stool
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Fever and chills
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Vomiting and watery diarrhea may cause dehydration, which is one of the major complication of gastroenteritis. It is important to watch out for the signs of dehydration, which include:
- Excessive thirst
- Dry mouth
- Reduced urine
- Urine dark in color
- Dry skin
- Sunken eyes and cheeks
Most people with gastroenteritis may not recognize the typical symptoms of the condition or do not seek medical attention as the symptoms are usually mild and resolve in a few days. However, in conditions where diarrhea and vomiting are severe, a visit to the doctor may be necessary. After taking a detailed history and performing a physical examination, your doctor may ask to take the following tests to find out the underlying cause of diarrhea.
Stool tests: These are the most common diagnostic tests performed to identify the pathogen that has caused gastroenteritis. These include:
- Stool culture: A sample of your stool would be cultured in a specific nutrient media which allows the selective growth of the pathogen. Culture tests helps in detecting most common intestinal infections such as- Salmonella, Campylobacter and Shigella.
- Specific stool tests for detecting the toxins produced by organisms such as Clostridium Difficile and Escherichia Coli.
- Antigen Tests: In this test, the stool sample is studied to detect the antigens produced by virus such as rotavirus and parasites such as Giardia Lambia and Entamoeba Histolytica. Rotavirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in children.
Tests to rule out other causes of diarrhea include:
- Trypsin- chromotrypsin test: Low levels of enzymes such as trypsin and chromotrypsin in the stool sample indicate cystic fibrosis or other pancreatic diseases.
- Fecal fat test: Increased levels of fat in the stool is usually due to malabsorption which is seen in conditions such as celiac disease or cystic fibrosis.
- Food Allergy tests: Allergy to food products may also cause diarrhea. Allergy tests include oral food challenges and food elimination tests.
- Lactose intolerance test: This test helps to evaluate whether a patient is able to digest lactose.
There is often no specific treatment for gastroenteritis. No antibiotics are effective against viral gastroenteritis. However, the most important factor while providing treatment for gastroenteritis is replacing the lost fluids and electrolytes from the body caused due to vomiting and diarrhea.
The doctor would recommend the patient to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. He may also prescribe over-the-counter oral rehydration solutions to replenish the body with the lost electrolytes and minerals. In severe cases, intravenous fluids are also given.
There are some measures which help in reducing the risk of developing gastroenteritis such as
- Wash hands frequently
- Wash all the fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating
- Avoid sharing towels, clothes or utensils
- Practice good hygiene
- Follow a healthy diet
- Drink plenty of water
- Keep surroundings clean
Why choose Apollo Diagnostics?
We have the expertise of 34 + years in healthcare. Our labs are equipped with EQUAS (External Quality Assurance System) and loaded with full automated machines to ensure error-free reports, with a quick turnaround time, and at an affordable price. For your convenience, we offer free home collection of samples.
For appointments, please call 4444 2424.
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- Gastroenteritis (treatment). http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/conditions/digestive-health/a4931/gastroenteritis/. Accessed on 24-10-2017
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- Gastroenteritis (prevention). https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/gastroenteritis. Accessed on 24-10-2017
- Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/viral-gastroenteritis/basics/prevention/con-20019350. Accessed on 24-10-2017
- Gastroenteritis (treatment). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/gastroenteritis. Accessed on 24-10-2017