Doctor's Notes on Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu)
Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the lining of the stomach and small intestine. It causes symptoms that are commonly referred to as the “stomach flu”, but the condition is not related to influenza. Viral infections are the most common cause of gastroenteritis, but certain bacteria can also cause the condition. Rotavirus and norovirus are the two main causes of viral gastroenteritis. Parasitic infections, toxins, and drugs are other possible causes of gastroenteritis.
Signs and symptoms of gastroenteritis include:
The diarrhea of viral gastroenteritis typically does not contain blood and may be watery. Some types of bacterial gastroenteritis can cause bloody diarrhea. Other associated signs and symptoms can include:
What Is the Treatment for Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu)?
Treatment of gastroenteritis depends on the cause, but there are some general principles of treatment that apply to most situations:
- Maintenance of hydration is essential.
- Adults should drink plenty of clear fluids slowly over time.
- Children may be given an oral rehydration solution.
- After symptoms begin to improve, foods should be introduced slowly, starting with bland foods.
- Medications can be given if necessary to control vomiting or diarrhea.
- Certain bacterial infections may require antibiotic treatment.
Pancreatitis : Test Your Medical IQ QuizQuestion
Pancreatitis is inflammation of an organ in the abdomen called the pancreas.See Answer
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DiarrheaDiarrhea is common and can be treated at home with natural remedies and over-the-counter medication. Learn about common causes, associated symptoms, and how to get rid of diarrhea.
Food PoisoningFood poisoning is caused by viruses, bacteria, toxins, parasites, or chemicals that have contaminated food or drinking water. Symptoms of food poisoning include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, fever, abdominal cramping, dehydration, rectal bleeding, and bloating. Food poisoning usually can be cared for at home. In some instances (severe dehydration) a person may be hospitalized for treatment.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal and functional bowel disorder causing diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramps, bloating, and gas. Learn about treatment options.
Is the Stomach Flu Contagious?Stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis) is caused by a number of different viruses. It is contagious, spreading from person to person through contact with an infected person’s stool or vomit.
Norovirus InfectionInfection with norovirus causes symptoms like vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. Symptoms and signs usually begin within 12-48 hours after initial contact with the virus. The infection is self-limiting, so medical treatment is usually unnecessary. However, if the infected individual is unable to rehydrate, it may be necessary to seek medical care to avoid dehydration.
RotavirusRotavirus infection is one of four viruses that cause gastroenteritis. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. Treatment involves staying hydrated. Antibiotics are not used to treat a rotavirus infection.
SalmonellaSalmonella is a bacterial that can cause infectious diseases in humans. You get Salmonella by ingesting contaminated food or water and the infection is referred to as "food poisoning." Symptoms and signs of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and possibly fever. Sometimes Salmonella requires no treatment, other times a doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
Stomach Pain (Abdominal Pain) in ChildrenAbdominal pain in children can range from trivial to life-threatening. Symptoms of abdominal pain range from vomiting, diarrhea, fever, groin pain, urinary problems, or skin rash. The location of the abdominal pain may be around the belly button, occurs only at night, while eating. The pain pain also may be intermittent. Treatment of abdominal pain in children is depends on the cause. Possible causes of abdominal pain in children include infections, food related (food allergy or food poisoning), poisoning from medication, food, household products, appendicitis, diabetes, or spider bites.
Traveler's DiarrheaCauses of traveler's diarrhea include bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Traveler's diarrhea is contagious, with symptoms including loose or watery stools, abdominal cramping, bloating, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, and bloody stools. Treatment for traveler's diarrhea is generally with OTC medication.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.