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Gastroenteritis is often self-limiting, and the care is supportive designed to control symptoms and prevent dehydration. Tests may not be needed.
If the symptoms persist for a prolonged period of time, the health care professional may consider blood and stool tests 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 accessing the diagnosis.
Questions asked by the health care professional may include:
These questions help determine the potential risk of dehydration and may also include asking questions about 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 explore the reasons for symptoms that may not be related to infection. If there are specific tender areas in the abdomen, the health care practitioner may want to determine if the patient has appendicitis, gallbladder disease, pancreatitis, diverticulitis, or 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 health care practitioner will feel the abdomen for masses. A rectal examination may be considered, in which the physician inspects the anus for any abnormalities and then inserts a finger in the rectum to feel for any masses. Stool obtained during this test may be tested for the presence of blood.
The health care practitioner may perform other laboratory tests, including complete blood count (CBC), electrolytes, and kidney function tests. Stool samples may be collected and tested for blood or different types of infection.
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