Table of Contents
- Infectious gastroenteritis and colitis is a contagious infection that occurs usually due to poor hygiene and sanitation.
- It is common and resolves itself in most cases but may be life-threatening in infants and elderly people as it can lead to dehydration.
- It is caused due to viruses, bacteria, and in some cases parasites.
- Symptoms include fatigue, diarrhea, fever, chills, dehydration, and in rare cases, blood in stools.
- Can be controlled by consuming soft and easily digestible foods (BRAT diet)
- Can be prevented through a number of precautionary measures.
About Infectious Gastroenteritis and Colitis:
The gastrointestinal tract consists of all the organs that continue from the mouth to the anus of the human body. This includes the mouth, the esophagus, the stomach, the intestines (small and large intestines), and the anus. Gastrointestinal disorders include medical conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, perianal abscesses, anal fistulas, colon inflammation or polyps perianal infections, colitis, and even cancer.
What is gastroenteritis?
Infectious gastroenteritis and colitis is one of the gastrointestinal infections that affect the stomach and the intestines. Infectious gastroenteritis and colitis are caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites and are far more serious than non infectious gastrointestinal disorders. Some of the bacteria that cause GI infections are Salmonella, E.coli, and Clostridium difficile. Gastroenteritis results in inflammation of the stomach and the intestine while colitis is subjected to colon inflammation (large intestine). Therefore, it is extremely vital for a general physician or a pediatrician to treat such problems swiftly and efficiently without any delay.
To better understand what is gastroenteritis and colitis, it is important to understand that even though the symptoms are similar to the common diarrhea, it is not to be taken lightly. Infectious gastroenteritis and colitis is spread through infectious agents unlike the diarrhea caused due to non-infectious causes. It develops in people who have consumed food or water that is contaminated by bacteria, parasites or viruses. It can also be spread from one infected person to another healthy person. Hence, it is very important to keep your hands clean as these pathogens can enter your body through your hands.
Infectious gastroenteritis and colitis Symptoms
Gastroenteritis and colitis is a condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract. Both conditions cause a temporary malfunction of the digestive functions and exhibit the following signs and symptoms of gastroenteritis:
- Watery stools or diarrhea.
- Incontinence (Loss of control over bowel movements)
- Loss of appetite or poor feeding due to gastroenteritis in babies
- Vomiting and extreme nausea
- Abdominal cramps
- Fatigue or muscle aches and headaches
- Severe dehydration
- In colitis, blood in stools is not uncommon but requires immediate medical attention.
Both infectious gastroenteritis and colitis share affect the intestines and impedes the functioning and the movement of bowels almost always causing diarrhea. Such an affliction can route to an enormous level if not checked by a pediatrician or a General Physician.
Most individuals who are healthy shall be able to combat the condition. However, for people with low immunity like babies, young children, and elderly individuals, acute gastroenteritis can be life-threatening if the loss of fluids is too much. It is important to watch out for signs and symptoms of gastroenteritis and dehydration like dry skin, dry mouth, and lack of tears, especially in babies and younger children. Seek immediate medical attention in these cases.
Gastric infections symptoms last anywhere between 3-4 days but there are instances where the condition has lasted for upto 10 days, depending on the severity. Colitis usually lasts for 7 days but chronic cases have lasted for 3 to 4 weeks.
Who is at a higher risk of developing infectious gastroenteritis and colitis?
The following people are more likely to get infected with infectious gastroenteritis and colitis:
- Children who go to daycare or nursery or who live in dormitories.
- People with immature immune systems like the elderly or infants
- Elderly people who live in nursing homes
- Travelers who use public transportation, public restrooms, and so on
- People who have weak immune systems due to other illnesses.
- People who take antibiotics for other medical conditions.
Note: In some cases, antibiotics disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in your colon which gives rise to Pseudomembranous colitis. The C. difficile bacteria is naturally present in small amounts in your intestines. However, consuming antibiotics may increase this amount of bacteria causing an imbalance in your colon. The increased bacterias release strong toxins in your intestines which result in inflammation and sometimes bleeding in the lining of the colon. This is called Pseudomembranous colitis.
If you have started taking antibiotics and experience diarrhea along with abdominal pain, kindly seek medical attention, even if the diarrhea is mild. For diarrhea along with abdominal pains, fever or blood/mucus in the stools, kindly seek immediate medical attention.
With the help of mfine, you can find gastroenterologists who will help treat your condition effectively.
What causes gastroenteritis and colitis:
Gastroenteritis and colitis are most commonly caused by viral or bacterial infections. Viral gastroenteritis is caused by norovirus, rotavirus, and sapovirus, while bacterial gastroenteritis is commonly caused by salmonella, campylobacter, and E.coli. This condition is spread through germs and pathogens from one person to another, usually through contaminated food and water. In less common scenarios, parasitic infections are also one of the stomach infection causes.
There are many ways how such an infection can spread. Some of the examples of what causes gastroenteritis and colitis are as follows:
- Close contact with someone who has the virus or bacteria (food handlers with the virus or sharing food and utensils with someone who is infected, can spread the infection to you)
- Consuming contaminated food or water
- Poor toilet hygiene and improper waste disposal habits.
- Touching contaminated surfaces and touching their mouth or eating food without thoroughly washing hands
- Consuming foods and water that could be contaminated with sewage (seafood, especially shellfish, which may be used in making sushi)
- Consuming raw or undercooked foods
In simple words, poor hygiene practices are some of the stomach infection causes that result in the development of gastroenteritis.
Bacteria causing infectious gastroenteritis and colitis:
Found in undercooked eggs, uncooked meats, and dairy products.
Found in ground meats, like minced beef and mutton, and salads (unwashed fruits and vegetables)
- Campylobacter jejuni: Found in uncooked poultry and meats.
- Yersinia: Found in pork
- Staphylococcus: Found in dairy products and uncooked meat and eggs
This bacteria is commonly found in swimming pools that are used by multiple people. Consuming this water while swimming can cause gastroenteritis.
Therefore, it is extremely important to thoroughly wash and clean your fruits, vegetables, and meat, before cooking and consuming it. It is also important not to compromise on the date of manufacture and expiry of these products. Experts also suggest not to refreeze meat after defrosting as this process may give rise to bacterial growth and contamination.
Virus causing infectious gastroenteritis and colitis:
Viral gastroenteritis is the most common type of gastroenteritis. It is commonly spread in healthcare facilities, among school children and in dormitories through the vomit or stools of an infected person. It can also be spread through touch, which is common among people who don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. The virus that cause viral gastroenteritis are as follows:
- Norovirus: The most common cause of viral gastroenteritis among children and adults. May last 1 to 3 days.
- Rotavirus: Common among infants of 3 months - 15 months. Symptoms may last 3 to 7 days.
- Adenovirus: Common in children under 2 years of age. Symptoms may last 5 to 12 days.
Parasites causing infectious gastroenteritis and colitis:
The most common parasites that cause parasitic gastroenteritis are Giardia and Cryptosporidium. These are usually found in food, water or soil that is contaminated with infected animal or human feces.
When to see a doctor?
If you have repeated bouts of infectious gastroenteritis and colitis symptoms, constant abdominal pain, watery stools that last more than 7 days, stools that have blood or pus in it, or if you show signs of dehydration, it is best to seek immediate medical attention. Dehydration can cause damage to the mental and physical being of a person, and should not be taken lightly.
Some signs of dehydration are as follows:
- Headaches, fatigue, and dizziness
- No urination for over 8 hours or small volumes of urination
- Dry eyes, mouth, and lack of tears in children
- Dull, sunken eyes
- Dark yellow urine that smells
- Dry skin that tents up on pinching
It is important to shed light on signs of dehydration in babies as the symptoms may be different from symptoms in adults. Some signs of dehydration in babies are as follows:
- Fewer wet nappies (lesser than 6 wet nappies per day)
- Dry skin and mouth
- Lack of tears when crying
- Sunken Fontanelle, (i.e. sunken soft spot on the head of an infant or toddler)
- Less activity (less play)
In severe dehydration in babies, the infant may be excessively sleepy and fussy with sunken eyes and discolored hands and legs.
Diagnosing Infectious gastroenteritis and colitis:
Infectious gastroenteritis and colitis are usually diagnosed through medical tests and lab tests. In infectious gastroenteritis and colitis, specialists determine the depth of the problem using various techniques unique to the cause. This can involve many ways such as blood tests, stool tests, colonoscopy, x-ray, CT scan, etc with which the doctor can quickly diagnose the probable cause and provide target specific medications.
A physician or a gastroenterologist may also use your history and analyze the presence of similar cases in your household or community. Since many other conditions have the same symptoms (i.e. irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcer disease, colorectal cancer, and esophagitis), the doctor may require stool samples or blood samples, to rapidly detect the presence of rotavirus or norovirus and diagnose infectious agents causing gastroenteritis and colitis.
Infectious Gastroenteritis And Colitis Treatment:
Infectious colitis and gastroenteritis treatment make effective use of drug therapy as the primary form of cure. The procedure is based on the patient’s biology and can vary from person to person.
The best way to treat infectious gastroenteritis and colitis is to let the system flush out the bacteria and viruses by itself. Most cases of this condition resolve by itself. Some of the top gastroenteritis home treatment to quicken this process is as follows:
- Refrain from eating solid foods until your stomach settles down.
- Doubling up your liquid intake is one of the best stomach infection treatments. Consume a lot of water, broths, soups, and fresh juices without sugar
- Include Oral rehydration solutions in your diet
- Refrain from consuming spices, caffeine, alcohol, dairy products, and nicotine
- Avoid sugary and fatty foods
- If you are feeling better, you can incorporate the BRAT diet (Banana, rice, apples, and toast.)
- If you have headaches and body pains, get plenty of rest. Avoid consuming painkillers like ibuprofen and aspirin as they may irritate your stomach further.
While the above steps can help resolve the symptoms in mild to moderate cases of infectious gastroenteritis and colitis, moderate to severe cases of gastroenteritis may require medical attention and antibiotics for stomach infection.
You can now find the best infectious gastroenteritis treatment through doctors near you as we have listed a plethora of medical experts who can provide the best services within your reach.
With the help of mfine, you can find infectious gastroenteritis and colitis specialists and avail superior viral and bacterial gastroenteritis treatment speedily.
Prevention of Gastroenteritis and Colitis:
Here are some small prevention tips that can avert the condition from happening to you or your loved ones:
- Thoroughly wash your hands and your children’s hands before every meal and after every outdoor visit.
- Ensure utmost cleanliness and disinfection of commonly used surfaces like doorknobs, remote controls, and phones.
- Thoroughly cook raw foods like meats and eggs
- Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before consumption
- Avoid direct contact with infected people
- Consume only UV treated water or consume water that has been previously boiled and cooled.
- Keep utensils and vessels clean.
- Get your child regularly vaccinated according to schedule
I have the stomach flu. What to eat?
For stomach flu, diarrhea, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis, or any gastrointestinal disorder, it is better to stick to a liquid diet for the first few days in order to give your system some time to settle and flush toxins out by itself. After a few days, you can consume a BRAT diet (Bananas, rice, apples, and toast) if you are feeling better. Kindly avoid sugar and fatty foods and refrain from consuming alcohol and nicotine during this condition. For moderate to severe cases, antibiotics for stomach infection may be prescribed by doctors.
Is gastroenteritis infectious?
Yes, both viral and bacterial gastroenteritis are contagious. It can spread from one infected person to another. It is important to clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces and keep your hands clean after every outdoor visit and every meal. Stay away from infected people, especially if you have children or elderly people at home as they may have immature immunity systems.
Why is there blood in stool?
Although blood in stool is not common in infectious gastroenteritis and colitis, it may occur in severe cases or it may imply a more serious medical condition. Kindly seek medical attention immediately.
How long does diarrhea last?
Diarrhea usually lasts 2-3 days. However, diarrhea from infectious gastroenteritis and colitis may last for up to 7 days. Gastroenteritis home treatments can usually resolve the condition. If you have diarrhea for more than 7 days, kindly seek medical assistance to avoid getting dehydration. Dehydration can cause severe damage, especially to infants and older people. Doctors will prescribe antibiotics for gastroenteritis.
Are dehydration and diarrhea a cause for concern?
Yes, dehydration from diarrhea is a cause for dehydration, especially in infants and older people. It would lead to life-threatening complications. Kindly seek immediate medical assistance if you see signs of gastroenteritis or dehydration. See above for signs of dehydration.
What causes stomach infection in kids?
Stomach infections in kids are caused due to poor hand sanitization. Most kids don’t wash their hands and tend to put their hands in their mouths or eat things that are not supposed to be eaten. This leads to bacterial infection in the stomach and results in gastroenteritis. Teach your children to wash their hands and refrain from putting hands and toys in their mouths.