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Gastroenteritis

Causes and treatment of gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is a condition that results from inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, which is composed of the stomach and the small intestine. It is one of several strains of stomach flu and presents itself in the same way as many other types of the condition.

Typically, gastroenteritis is not a life-threatening condition when proper medical treatment is available. However, worldwide, between 5 and 8 million people die every year of untreated gastroenteritis, many of whom are infants and young children.

Gastroenteritis Causes and Symptoms

Gastroenteritis is typically caused by infection from a virus, bacteria or parasite. Viruses that can trigger gastroenteritis include the Norwalk virus and rotavirus. It's possible to be immune to these viruses or to experience only a 24-hour bout with the full effects. Children, however, are far more susceptible to the symptoms of these viruses and should be seen by a doctor if they begin to present. Gastroenteritis can also be caused by food poisoning when a person ingests food that is contaminated with a strain of gastroenteritis bacteria.

Gastroenteritis symptoms are similar to that of any stomach flu – abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and weakness. Depending on the severity of the condition, blood in the stool, a high fever, joint pains and dizziness may also occur. When these symptoms present, it's best to see a doctor immediately.

Gastroenteritis Treatment

Gastroenteritis cannot be cured, as generally the virus or symptoms simply need to run their course. Though it may be difficult to eat food, it's important to drink plenty of fluids, especially those that contain vital nutrients, as dehydration and nutrient deficiency are risk factors. Again, be sure to see a doctor if symptoms do not clear up within 48 hours or if extreme symptoms begin to present themselves.

In the case of gastroenteritis and other strains of stomach flu, prevention measures can be taken to protect yourself. Thorough hand washing and proper food preparation techniques can help you avoid contamination.

Conditions Related to Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is a classification of stomach flu, though it is actually unrelated to influenza. Other conditions related to gastroenteritis include:

  • Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach)
  • Enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine)
  • Colitis (inflammation of the large intestine)

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