Viral Gastroenteritis – What is it, Symptoms and Treatments!

Viral Gastroenteritis – What it is, Symptoms and Treatments of this condition. Furthermore, Viral Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines caused by a number of viruses . Also known as the stomach flu, Viral Gastroenteritis can affect anyone across the world.

This highly contagious disease spreads through close contact with infected people or with contaminated food or water. It can easily spread from close quarters such as day care centers, schools, nursing homes and cruise ships.

Many different viruses can cause illness, each with its own peak season. The most common viruses include:

Rotavirus: This virus usually affects infants and young children, who then spread the infection to other children and adults. It is usually spread orally, which means the virus enters a person’s body through the mouth. Symptoms usually appear within two days of infection and include vomiting, loss of appetite, and watery diarrhea . According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this virus is most common between the months of December and June.

Norovirus: This type of virus is highly contagious and can affect anyone at any age. It is spread through contaminated food, water and surfaces, or by infected people. This type of virus is common in crowded spaces such as nursing homes, day care centers and schools. Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea , fever and body aches. Most norovirus outbreaks in the United States occur between November and April.

There are steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting the viruses that cause Viral Gastroenteritis . These include frequent hand washing and avoiding contamination of water and food products. A rotavirus vaccine was approved for babies in 2006; Early vaccination is recommended to prevent severe rotavirus disease in infants and young children.

Most people make a full recovery in two or three days, with no lasting side effects.

Causes of Viral Gastroenteritis: Viral Gastroenteritis is caused by several different viruses . People most at risk are:

  • Children under five years old;
  • Older adults, especially if they live in nursing homes;
  • Children and adults with weakened immune systems .

This virus is easy to spread among people in group situations, such as in schools, dormitories, hospitals and cruise ships. Some of the ways the virus is transmitted include:

  • Inadequate hand washing, especially by food handlers;
  • Water contaminated by sewage;
  • Consumption of raw or undercooked shellfish in contaminated water.

Symptoms of Viral Gastroenteritis: Symptoms usually begin a day or two after infection and include:

  • watery diarrhea ;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Headache, muscle pain, joint pain;
  • Fever, chills;
  • Sweat, damp skin ;
  • Cramping and abdominal pain;
  • loss of appetite;
  • Weight loss.

Symptoms can last from one to 10 days.

Complications of Viral Gastroenteritis: The main complication of Viral Gastroenteritis is dehydration, which can be quite serious in babies and young children. Dehydration can be fatal. Call your doctor if you or your child has these symptoms:

  • Diarrhea that lasts for more than a few days;
  • Blood in the stool;
  • Confusion, lethargy;
  • Feeling weak or dizzy;
  • Nausea;
  • Dry mouth;
  • Unable to produce tears.
  • Difficulty urinating for more than eight hours or urine that is very yellow or brown
  • Deep eyes.

Diagnoses of Viral Gastroenteritis: Most of the time, a physical exam is the basis for the diagnosis, especially if the virus is spreading in your community. Your doctor may also order a stool sample to test for the type of virus or find out if your illness is due to a parasitic or bacterial infection.

Treatments for Viral Gastroenteritis: The main focus of treatment is to prevent dehydration by drinking lots of fluids. In severe cases, hospitalization and intravenous fluids are necessary.

The CDC recommends that over-the-counter oral rehydration solutions, such as Pedialyte, be kept in the homes of families with young children. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses . Check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication.

  • If you have Viral Gastroenteritis , there are some self-care steps you can take.
  • Drink extra fluids with and between meals. If you have difficulty drinking, try very small amounts of water or suck on ice chips.
  • Avoid fruit juices as these do not replace minerals and can actually increase diarrhea .
  • Children and adults can use sports drinks to replenish electrolytes. Younger children and babies should use products formulated for children, such as oral rehydration solutions.
  • Eat food in small amounts and let your stomach recover.
  • Take a rest. You may feel tired or weak.

Check with your doctor before taking medications or giving them to children. Never give aspirin to children or teenagers with a viral illness. This can cause Reye’s syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition.

Prevention of Viral Gastroenteritis: Viral gastroenteritis is easily spread. There are a few things you can do to lower your chances of contracting the virus or spreading it to others.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing food. If necessary, use hand sanitizer.
  • If someone in your household is sick, don’t share kitchen utensils, dishes, or towels.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked foods.
  • Carefully wash fruits and vegetables.
  • Take special precautions to avoid contaminated food and water when traveling. Avoid ice cubes and use bottled water whenever possible.
  • There are two vaccines for rotavirus. These are usually started when a child is two months old. Ask your doctor if you should have your baby vaccinated.

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