Symptoms of Gastroenteritis
When symptoms such as nausea vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain appear many individuals automatically assume they are suffering from a stomach bug such as influenza. However, the real culprit could be gastroenteritis.
Gastroenteritis is a condition that affects the digestive tract (intestines, stomach, and oesophagus) and results in irritation and inflammation. This irritation and inflammation then leads to the previously mentioned symptoms, and many more.
The Most Common Symptoms of Gastroenteritis
Most cases of gastroenteritis are not serious and symptoms of the condition usually appear within 48 hours of exposure to the cause. After initial onset the symptoms can last anywhere from two to ten days.
Gastroenteritis can develop in one of two ways- through a viral infection or through a bacterial infection. However, both types of gastroenteritis share the same symptoms. The most common symptoms of this condition include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, headache, abdominal pain, abdominal cramping, bloating, muscle aches, fatigue, weakness, chills, and a low-grade fever. These symptoms are not serious, and in the case of viral gastroenteritis, will usually run their course and subside in a few days. If treatment is necessary over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen can be taken to relieve the majority of symptoms.
When Symptoms Become Serious
If the cause of your gastroenteritis is bacterial, or if your symptoms persist for too many days you can develop dehydration. Dehydration is the most serious symptom of gastroenteritis. Dehydration occurs when the body looses too much water through bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting, especially when the patient does not or cannot drink enough liquid to replace what they have lost.
Increasing fluid intake can quickly treat moderate or mild dehydration. However, severe dehydration will require medical treatment and maybe even hospitalisation. In order to prevent severe dehydration from occurring it is imperative to know the symptoms of this condition. The symptoms of serious dehydration are little or no urine production, dark yellow urine, dizziness, excessive thirst, decreases tears, and severe lethargy. If left untreated dehydration can eventually lead to shock.
Other, more serious symptoms of gastroenteritis to watch for include fever over 101 degrees F, vomiting that lasts continuously for more than 2 days, the presence of blood in vomit or stool, and abdominal pain that is concentrated in the lower right side of the stomach. If you notice any of these symptoms in combination with gastroenteritis you need to seek medical attention right away.
A Word of Caution
Viral gastroenteritis is highly contagious, which means it is easily passed on from one person to another. Since the symptoms of gastroenteritis can become serious it is important to limit your contact with others until you are free of the condition. Many individuals believe that once their symptoms subside they are no longer capable of passing the illness on to others. However, the virus that causes gastroenteritis can remain viable in the stool of an infected person for up to 14 days after all symptoms have disappeared.
In order to avoid passing the infection on to others it is important that you wash your hands thoroughly with warm soapy water each time you use the bathroom. Also, if someone you know is diagnosed with gastroenteritis it is important to know that you can contract the illness and not suffer from any symptoms. In these cases you may not feel ill but you would still be ale to pass the virus on to other people. Under these circumstances you would still need to practice good hand washing techniques for at least two weeks.