Infections - Prevention, Diagnosis & Treatment

Acute Gastroenteritis: Understanding its Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

By S.I. (staff writer) , published on October 03, 2023

Medicine Telehealth Health infection diarrheoa

What is Acute Gastroenteritis?

Acute gastroenteritis, commonly known as stomach flu, is a condition characterized by inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It is typically caused by a viral or bacterial infection and can result in symptoms such as diarrhoea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.  [1]



What are the Symptoms of Acute Gastroenteritis?

The symptoms of acute gastroenteritis can vary depending on the underlying cause and the individual's overall health. Common signs and symptoms include:


  • Diarrhea: Loose or watery stools are a hallmark symptom of acute gastroenteritis. The frequency and severity of diarrhoea can vary from person to person.


  • Vomiting: Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms, often occurring alongside diarrhoea. Vomiting can contribute to dehydration if fluids are not replenished adequately.


  • Abdominal Pain and Cramps: Individuals with acute gastroenteritis may experience abdominal pain, cramps, and discomfort. These symptoms can range from mild to severe. [2]


  • Fever: In some cases, a low-grade fever may accompany acute gastroenteritis. Fever is more common in bacterial infections than in viral infections.


  • Loss of Appetite: A decreased desire to eat or drink is a common symptom. This can be due to nausea, abdominal pain, or a general feeling of unwellness.




What are the Causes of Acute Gastroenteritis?

Acute gastroenteritis can be caused by various pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites. The most common causes include:


  • Viral Infections: Viruses such as norovirus, rotavirus, and adenovirus are major culprits of acute gastroenteritis. These viruses are highly contagious and can spread through contaminated food, water, or close contact with an infected individual. [3]


  • Bacterial Infections: Bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Shigella can cause bacterial gastroenteritis. Contaminated food, especially undercooked meat or raw eggs, and contaminated water are common sources of bacterial infections.


  • Parasitic Infections: Parasites like Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium can lead to gastroenteritis, often transmitted through contaminated water sources or food.




Treatment Options for Acute Gastroenteritis:

The primary goals of treatment for acute gastroenteritis are to alleviate symptoms, prevent dehydration, and promote recovery. Treatment options may include:

  • Oral Rehydration Therapy: Replenishing lost fluids and electrolytes is crucial in managing acute gastroenteritis. Oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes can help replace fluids and prevent dehydration. [4]


  • Medications: Antiemetic medications may be prescribed to control nausea and vomiting. Antidiarrheal medications are generally not recommended for bacterial or parasitic gastroenteritis, as they can prolong the infection. [5]


  • Rest and Fluid Intake: Getting adequate rest and consuming plenty of fluids, including water, clear broths, and electrolyte-rich drinks, can help support recovery and prevent dehydration.


  • Dietary Modifications: Initially, a bland diet consisting of easily digestible foods like rice, bananas, toast, and applesauce may be recommended. As symptoms improve, a gradual return to a normal diet can be implemented.


  • Prevention and Hygiene: Practicing good hygiene, such as frequent handwashing, proper food handling, and avoiding close contact with individuals who have gastroenteritis, can help prevent the spread of infection.









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