Gastroenteritis

Digestive Problems

Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of your stomach and intestines commonly caused by viruses and bacteria. It can also be caused by a reaction to new foods, especially in young children and by a reaction to medications. Characteristic symptoms of gastroenteritis are: nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea and sometimes a low-grade fever. This inflammation is common and although it is unpleasant, will usually go away on its own within seven days.

Symptoms

You are likely to have gastroenteritis if:

  • Your stool is looser than usual
  • You need to use the toilet more frequently than normal
  • You may also have a stomach ache and feel sick
  • You are being sick (vomiting)
  • You have stomach cramps and or stomach pain
  • You have a low temperature
  • You have aches and chills or are feeling generally unwell
  • You lack energy and feel weak
  • You have a loss of appetite

When to see an expert at Ahmeys?

In most cases, gastroenteritis clears up after a few days and can be treated at home. However, diarrhoea and vomiting can lead to dehydration which can be dangerous, especially in babies and young children. Symptoms of dehydration in children and adults include:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Dark yellow or strong-smelling urine
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry lips, mouth and eyes
  • Passing urine less than four times a day

Call to make an urgent appointment with Ahmeys if:

  • You or your child has had diarrhoea for more than seven days
  • You are worried about a baby under 12 months
  • Your child stops breast or bottle feeding
  • Your child under five years has signs of dehydration (fewer wet nappies, seem drowsy, breathe fast, have few or no tears when they cry, have a sunken fontanelle (soft spot on their head that sinks inwards), have a dry mouth, dark-yellow or strong-smelling urine or cold and blotchy-looking feet and hands)
  • You or your child (over five years) still have signs of dehydration after using oral rehydration sachets
  • You or your child cannot keep fluid down
  • You or your child have bloody diarrhoea or rectal bleeding
  • You are experiencing weight loss
  • Have a moderate or continuous stomach ache
  • Your stool is dark or black (this could indicate bleeding in the stomach)

 

Check with Ahmeys before going in. It may be possible to speak to an expert over the phone to avoid spreading your virus or infection.

When to seek emergency care?

  • If you have a sudden, severe headache or stomach ache (pain so bad that it is hard to think, talk, sleep or move)
  • If you have also been vomiting for more than two days. Especially if you are vomiting blood or vomit that looks like ground coffee or is bright green or yellow
  • If you might have swallowed something poisonous
  • If you are also experiencing other symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) such as: swelling of the throat and tongue, facial swelling, additional skin reactions, including itching, hives and pale or flushed skin, difficulty breathing, a weak, rapid pulse, dizziness, fainting or loss of consciousness
  • If you have a stiff neck and pain when looking at bright lights

Causes

Gastroenteritis has several potential causes, the most common are:

  • Viruses
  • Food or water contaminated by bacteria or parasites (be careful when travelling in foreign countries and make sure that the water you and your children are drinking is safe to drink)
  • A reaction to a new food (babies and young children may develop signs and symptoms for this reason. Babies who are breast-fed may even react to a change in their mothers’ diets)
  • Side effect from medication

Diagnosis

If you are able to recognise from the list of symptoms that you have gastroenteritis, you can usually treat it at home with rest, making sure you drink enough fluids, and eating solid foods as soon as you are able. If you are concerned that your symptoms are severe or have lasted for a long time, call Ahmeys to book an appointment with one of our experts to discuss your symptoms and potential treatments. An expert at Ahmeys will review your symptoms either in person, or over the phone to assess how to treat you.

  • Viruses
  • Food or water contaminated by bacteria or parasites (be careful when travelling in foreign countries and make sure that the water you and your children are drinking is safe to drink)
  • A reaction to a new food (babies and young children may develop signs and symptoms for this reason. Babies who are breast-fed may even react to a change in their mothers’ diets)
  • Side effect from medication

Treatment

Once one of our experts has assessed you, they will discuss treatment options with you. Treatments may include:

  • An oral rehydration solution if you or your child are particularly at risk of dehydration
  • Potentially prescribe antibiotics if your diarrhoea has been confirmed to have a bacterial cause
  • Send off a stool sample for analysis
  • Hospital referral for IV rehydration in cases of extreme dehydration
  • Hospital referral for extreme and potential life-threatening symptoms

How to manage your symptoms?

  • Gastroenteritis can spread easily. If possible, stay off work and keep your child off school until you have not had diarrhoea or vomited for at least two days
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration – small, frequent sips of water
  • Eat solid food as soon as you feel able to
  • If you are breast or bottle feeding your baby and they have diarrhoea or are vomiting, try to feed them as normal
  • Remember to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, especially after using the toilet and before eating and preparing food
  • If travelling abroad, practice good food and water hygiene and avoid undercooked food or any food or drink that has been prepared or contains unsafe tap water
  • If you are in discomfort, take paracetamol – check the leaflet before giving it to your child
  • Do not have or give your child fruit juice or fizzy drinks as they can make diarrhoea worse
  • Do not give children under the age of 12 medicine to stop diarrhoea
  • Do not give aspirin to children under the age of 16

How to avoid spreading an infection?

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water
  • Wash any clothing or bedding with faecal matter or vomit on in a separate, hot wash
  • Clean toilet seats, taps, surfaces and flush handles every day
  • If possible, do not prepare food for other people
  • Do not share flannels, cutlery, drinks, food, towels or utensils with other people
  • Wait for two weeks after the symptoms have stopped to use the swimming pool

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