What causes gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis is usually caused by a virus. Some examples are:
- Norwalk virus
What are the symptoms of gastroenteritis?
- Abdominal pain
- Malaise (not feeling well)
Red Flags (seek medical care immediately)
- Severe or persistent vomiting and diarrhea
- Infants and young children with gastroenteritis
- Ill-appearing child
- High fever
- Not drinking fluids or not keeping them down
- Decreased urine output
- Excessive sleepiness, confusion or unusual behavior
- Blood in vomited material or stool
How is the cause of gastroenteritis diagnosed?
Determining the exact cause of gastroenteritis is usually not necessary. Gastroenteritis caused by a virus will most often improve in less than a week. Doctors usually don’t need to perform any blood, stool or x-ray tests if the child is not dehydrated and the symptoms are not severe. When done, blood tests may help your doctor determine if the child has a serious infection or has lost too much water or electrolytes.
How is gastroenteritis treated in children?
- Replacing lost water and electrolytes is the most important treatment. Young children should receive fluids with appropriate electrolytes such as Infalyte® or Pedialyte®. Juices and sodas contain high concentrations of sugars that may make gastroenteritis worse. Breastfeeding infants should continue breastfeeding if they are able. If the child can not drink enough fluids, then she may need intravenous fluids. A bland diet may help.
- Antibiotics are usually not helpful (and may make gastroenteritis worse).
- Medicines to slow or stop diarrhea and vomiting are usually not recommended (and may make the child sleepy which could make it difficult to tell if the child is getting worse). There are significant side effects of anti-nausea medicines that limit their usefulness in children. Medicines are occasionally used to treat vomiting and nausea in older children. Some examples of anti-nausea medicines are Zofran® and Phenergan®.
- Generally, infectious gastroenteritis improves on its own once the infection resolves.
Can gastroenteritis be prevented?
The risk of developing gastroenteritis from an infection can be reduced by frequent hand washing, good hygiene and a healthy lifestyle. Medicines or foods known to cause gastroenteritis can be avoided. Raw foods should be appropriately cleaned or cooked.
Last Updated (Monday, 22 June 2009 15:36)