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Treatment of Gastroenteritis

By: Jody Ehrhardt - Updated: 8 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Gastroenteritis Vomiting Diarrhoea

Gastroenteritis is the medical term used to describe the vomiting diarrhoea, and abdominal pain associated with inflammation and irritation in the intestines. This condition, sometimes confused with influenza, does not usually need any medical treatment and can range in severity of symptoms from mild to severe.

Although gastroenteritis is not usually a life-threatening condition, complications (such as dehydration) caused by persistent diarrhoea and vomiting can result in death. If you have contracted gastroenteritis you need to begin taking care of your symptoms right away.

Self Treatment for Gastroenteritis

The most important aspect of self-treatment for gastroenteritis is the consumption of fluids. Repeated bouts of diarrhoea and vomiting can deplete the body of its natural fluid levels and lead to more serious symptoms. Plus, adequate fluid intake can help stabilise electrolyte levels, which can help decrease the frequency of vomiting and nausea. Although you will need to increase your fluid intake you do not want to choose just any fluids. Colas, coffee, teas, alcohol, fruit juices, and creamy soups are not appropriate choices. These liquids can contain caffeine (which is a natural diuretic), and too much sugar. Better choices for liquid intake include clear liquids such as water, sports drinks that contain electrolytes and sodium, and re-hydration solutions that are formulated to balance electrolytes and replace lost nutrients.

Aside from drinking plenty of fluids you will also want to change your diet during bouts of gastroenteritis. Eating the wrong foods (such as spicy foods, milk products, fried foods, and fibrous vegetables) can make your condition worse and increase the symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Choose bland foods such as bananas, applesauce, white bread, cooked cereals, and rice. These foods are easier to digest and put less strain on an already irritated digestive tract. You should continue to follow a bland foods diet for at least 24 hours after your symptoms subside in order to give your digestive system time to heal.

To help ease the symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting associated with gastroenteritis you can also take an over-the-counter medication. Many anti-nausea and anti-diarrhoea medications are available that will control or eliminate your symptoms.

The last aspect of gastroenteritis self-treatment is rest. Make sure that you get at least eight solid hours of sleep during periods of illness so that your body's immune system can concentrate on killing the infection and healing the irritation and inflammation. During waking hours try to relax as much as possible and avoid any activities that will elevate the heart rate or cause you to perspire. Not only will sweating increases your risk for dehydration but too much activity will also further upset and irritate your system.

Medical Treatment for Gastroenteritis

If your symptoms do not clear up naturally within five to seven days, or if they become severe, or if you begin noticing signs of dehydration, you will need to see a doctor for gastroenteritis treatment. Doctors can prescribe stronger medications that reduce the symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting. They can also treat cases of advanced dehydration. If the dehydration is too severe, or if the vomiting and diarrhoea cannot be stopped long enough to allow adequate re-hydration, you may need intravenous treatments to replace lost fluids.

It is important to know that even though a main cause of gastroenteritis is bacterial infection, doctors try not to prescribe antibiotics for treatment. This is because the bacteria that usually cause this condition do not respond well to antibiotics, and because the repeated use of antibiotics can diminish their effectiveness.

If you are suffering from gastroenteritis your best treatment plan involves drinking plenty of fluids and getting plenty of rest.

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