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So, you go out with your friends and have yummy panipuri from the nearby roadside stall. It's quite possible that the following day your bowel movements force you to visit the loo too often and the stomach pain coupled with weird cramps keep irritating you throughout the day. Well, if you continue having food from unhygienic places, stomach flu or gastroenteritis could be a regular event in your life.
What is stomach flu or gastroenteritis? What causes it?
Stomach flu is the general term used for what doctors call 'gastroenteritis.' 'It is a contagious infection of the stomach and the small intestine caused by bacteria, viruses or protozoa,' says Dr Mehul Choksi, Consultant Gastroenterologist and Endoscopist, S.L. Raheja, Fortis, Mahim.
Although some of the symptoms of gastroenteritis may be similar to that of gastritis, they are different from each other. 'Gastritis is not the same as gastroenteritis. Gastritis is the inflammation of the stomach mucosal lining and is caused by H. pylori infection, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, alcohol use and other rare conditions,' explains Dr Choksi.
Types of gastroenteritis
Depending on the causative agent, gastroenteritis can be of 4 main types:
Gastroenteritis can be acute or chronic depending on the severity of the infection
Acute gastroenteritis: It is a sudden onset or attack of stomach flu that can even be life-threatening. It is usually caused by infectious bacteria or parasites like Giardia.
Chronic gastroenteritis: Sometimes the infection can become chronic if the patient also suffers from a nutritional related disorder or a malabsorption symdrome. It is more likely to affect people with a comprised immune system or weak immunity. People with poorly managed diabetes can also develop a chronic condition.
Transmission of gastroenteritis:
The disease is acquired mainly through contaminated food and water. But the rate of transmission and risk of suffering from the disease is also dependent on factors like level of hygiene, immunity of an individual and nutritional status of the person.
What are the symptoms of gastroenteritis?
Dr Choksi highlights diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping and vomiting as the classic symptoms of the disease. Apart from these, you may also suffer from:
Dehydration symptoms include:
Diagnosis of gastroenteritis
Once your doctor suspects gastroenteritis, diagnosis of the disease involves clinical evaluation and stool examination. But unless there is an outbreak of the disease, identification of the causative agent is not required. If your symptoms persist even after a few days of treatment, you might need to undergo a clinical evaluation.
Treatment and prevention
Viral gastroenteritis cannot be cured with medicines. The only treatment option is prevention of dehydration by intake of sufficient fluids.
Bacterial gastroenteritis is treated with antibiotics like metronidazole and vancomycin. 'Antibiotics are commonly to be taken for 3 to 5 days. Oral rehydration solution is used to maintain adequate hydration. In case of severe dehydration you may need hospitalisation for intravenous hydration therapy and intravenous antibiotics,' says Dr Choksi.
Here are some preventative measures Dr Choksi suggests to keep the disease at bay
Other precautions that you should take:
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