Viral gastroenteritis is an infection of the gastrointestinal tract categorised by watery diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever. It is also known as stomach flu, inflicted via contact with an infected person or by ingesting contaminated food or water. A healthy person recovers fast, but in the case of infants, older adults and people with compromised immune system viral gastroenteritis may be fatal. Also read: Diarrhoea: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
There is no effective treatment mode for viral gastroenteritis, hence prevention is key which includes regular hand washing and avoiding contaminated food and water.
Viral gastroenteritis is caused by different viruses and the most common include norovirus and rotavirus.
Noroviruses affect both children and adults and it is the most common cause of foodborne disease. The virus can spread among families and communities mainly through taking contaminated food or water and may also be transmitted via person to person.
It is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in children, this happens when the children put their fingers or other things contaminated with the virus into their mouth. Adults may also be infected with rotavirus but do not show any symptoms but can still spread the disease.
Adenovirus is contracted through air droplets while coughing and sneezing and by touching contaminated objects or hands of someone infected with the virus.
It is another common virus that causes gastroenteritis in children, this virus is usually active during winter and spring months. It is contacted via an infected person or contaminated food or surfaces.
Some of the common signs and symptoms of gastroenteritis that is generally visible after 2-3 days of infection include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Body aches, muscle or joint aches
- Fever with chills
- Abdominal cramps
- Poor appetite
These symptoms usually last for 1 to 10 days.
Seek immediate medical care if the symptoms get worsened such as:
- Diarrhoea that lasts for more than three days
- Bloody stools
- Severe dehydration
The best way to prevent the spread of gastrointestinal intestinal infections is to follow these preventive measures which include:
Get your child vaccinated against rotavirus, as the vaccine is effective in preventing the severity of the illness.
Follow hand hygiene etiquette, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds, before and after using the toilet, touching the soiled surface and handling food. Remember to carry hand sanitizers for times when soap and water are not available.
Avoid sharing utensils, personal belongings with others in the family.
Maintain social distancing from individuals who had been infected with the virus and avoid close contact.
If any of the family members has viral gastroenteritis, then all hard surfaces like counters, doorknobs, tables and staircase railings should be cleaned and disinfected.
Diagnosis And Treatment
The doctors diagnose gastroenteritis based on the symptoms, a complete physical examination and in some cases a rapid stool test can detect rotavirus or norovirus, however, there are no quick tests for detecting other viruses that cause gastroenteritis.
There is no specific treatment for viral gastroenteritis, antibiotics are not effective against viruses and overusing them can contribute to antibiotic-resistant. Treatment mainly aims at preventive measures and self-care remedies which include:
Allow your stomach to settle- avoid eating solid foods for a few hours.
Stay well hydrated, drink plenty of fluids like clear broths, electrolyte drinks, buttermilk, and lemon-infused water or non-caffeinated energy drinks. Take small frequent sips or keep sucking on ice chips. Also Read: 5 Best Natural Remedies To Treat Stomach Flu, This Monsoon Season
Soft bland diet and easy to digest food is generally preferred during viral gastroenteritis which includes rice, bread, porridges, bananas, toast and boiled vegetables. Avoid eating if you feel nauseated.
Stay away from dairy products, caffeine, spicy and deep-fried processed foods, until you feel better.
Get ample rest as dehydration and illness can make you feel tired and weak.