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Other Common Causes of Gastroenteritis
Gastroenteritis that is not contagious to others can be caused by chemical toxins, most often found in seafood, food allergies, heavy metals, antibiotics, and other medications.
When to Seek Medical Care for the Stomach Flu (Gastroenteritis)
Is There A Test to Diagnose the Stomach Flu (Gastroenteritis)?
Gastroenteritis is often self-limiting, and the care is supportive designed to control symptoms and prevent dehydration. Tests may not be needed. The health care professional often may make the diagnosis based on history of symptoms and physical examination.
If the symptoms persist for a prolonged period of time blood and stool tests may be appropriate to determine the cause of the vomiting and diarrhea.
Patient History and Physical Examination
Taking a thorough history and physical examination is very helpful in making the diagnosis.
Questions asked by the health care professional may include:
These questions help determine the potential risk of dehydration. Other questions to help assess hydration also may include the amount and frequency of urination, weight loss, lightheadedness, and fainting (syncope).
Other information in the medical history that may be helpful in the diagnosis of gastroenteritis include:
Physical examination will look for other causes of vomiting and/or diarrhea unrelated to gastroenteritis. If there are specific tender areas in the abdomen, the doctor may want to determine if the patient has one of the following, or any other conditions that may be the cause of the patient’s symptoms:
Other noninfectious gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or microscopic colitis also must be considered. The doctor will feel the abdomen for masses. A rectal examination may be considered, where the physician inspects the anus for any abnormalities and then inserts a finger into the rectum to feel for any masses. Stool obtained during this test may be tested for the presence of blood.
The doctor may order other laboratory tests, including:
Stool samples may be collected and tested for white blood cells, red blood cells and different types of infections.
If warranted based on the patient's presentation and situation, stool cultures may be taken to try and grow the organism that might have caused the infection. The results may not affect treatment, even if the culture is positive, since most infections resolve by themselves.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/16/2016
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