Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis occurs frequently throughout the year in the form of an epidemic. Here is our complete file of good advice and food tips to follow in case of gastroenteritis.

Guide to Treating Gastroenteritis

1.  The first step to be taken from the first symptoms of gastroenteritis is to drink plenty of fluids, for example, broths or infusions based on medicinal plants.

2.  Next, it is important to know whether it is necessary to consult a doctor or not. For cases in babies, it is always advisable to consult a pediatrician to limit any risk of severe dehydration (see complications of gastroenteritis ).

In older children and adults, viral gastroenteritis (eg after a Rotavirus epidemic) can generally be cured by self-medication, if there are no particular risks, for example with antidiarrheals, lactic bacteria based remedies, etc. . (see all treatments against gastroenteritis ). In case of bacterial gastroenteritis, it will be necessary to consult a doctor who will prescribe antibiotics.

After you have runny stools (diarrhea) or have vomited, wait about 15 minutes before eating or drinking anything. The aim is to give the stomach a moment to rest.

3.  Finally, it can be beneficial to treat yourself with medicinal plants , in particular plants rich in tannins such as black tea (see all medicinal plants against gastroenteritis ).

A yoghurt-based diet is also a good measure to cure gastroenteritis (see also other useful tips ).

Read also: Stomach burning and heartburn .

prevention tips

To limit the spread of the virus or bacteria to society, it is important to wash your hands several times a day with soap and water, especially during gastroenteritis outbreaks. Also disinfect different surfaces (eg bathroom) and objects contaminated with the virus.

It is important to know that the gastroenteritis virus, including rotavirus, is easily spread through feces and vomit, this type of contamination is called fecal-oral. Norovirus is easily transmitted by contaminated food and drink.

Interview about gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis in 7 questions and answers
The view of this infectious disease, most often benign, from Pharmacist Chiara Rivière-Gallo who works in Geneva (Switzerland):

1. What are the classic symptoms of gastroenteritis?
There is often nausea, vomiting and (acute) diarrhea. Sometimes gastroenteritis is accompanied by fever, headache, stomach cramps and even pain in the limbs. In some serious cases, such as in young children (babies, children,…) dehydration can be observed (weight loss, thirst, dry mouth, decrease in the volume and frequency of urine,…). In this case, consult a doctor as soon as possible!

2. How long does gastroenteritis last?
In general, gastroenteritis lasts an average of 2 to 3 days.

Regarding gastroenteritis caused by Norovirus (a viral gastroenteritis that is quite common), it usually lasts from 12-60 hours, but in most patients, in two days the gastroenteritis has already healed. Note, however, that a patient can remain contagious for up to two days after recovery.

3. Is it possible to have several gastroenteritis in a row?
Yes, because immunity to the gastroenteritis virus, in particular the norovirus, is short-lived and there are several sources. This is because the production of a vaccine against infections caused by norovirus is currently not possible.

4. Do we need to see a doctor?
No, except newborns, very young children, and on the contrary, very old and very fragile people. Viral gastroenteritis (the one we know mainly in winter) must be cured with self-medication (paracetamol in case of pain, rehydration sachets, etc.) because, as mentioned above, after about 2 days the gastroenteritis disappears by itself. The recommendations come from the NHS, a public body in the UK. The purpose of self-medication is to avoid overwhelming the ER or family doctor and to limit the spread (we know that gastroenteritis is very contagious). In case of suspicious symptoms, such as strong and persistent diarrhoea, mucus in the stool, dehydration, profuse watery diarrhea, in case of return of blood, consult a doctor.

5. During gastroenteritis, which diet should we have?
First of all, it is important to note that it is necessary to eat in small doses, for example, from 6 to 10 small meals during the day, instead of the usual 3 meals. About the content of these meals, one should avoid spicy foods or raw vegetables. Eat mainly banana and carrot puree. Don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids, such as tea, soup and rice water (see also question 6). Avoid very sweet drinks like Coca-Cola, as too much sugar can make diarrhea worse.

6. What are the treatments to cure viral gastroenteritis?
We distinguish between treatments for young children and babies from older children and adults.

For small children and babies, in case of mild dehydration, it is possible to use rehydration solutions available in pharmacies. In addition, the WHO recommends preparing the formula:

WHO formula (simplified)

– 8 spoons (tea) of sugar;

– 1 teaspoon of salt;

– Juice of 1-2 oranges;

– 1 liter of boiled water (especially in countries where water is not drinkable).

Administer regularly in small amounts to children.

This formula is preferable to rice water. The latter does not contain enough carbohydrates.

If dehydration (dark circles under the eyes, weight loss, thirst, etc.) is marked in babies, consult a doctor immediately!

7. How to avoid contamination of the environment?
We know that gastroenteritis is highly contagious, vomit contains a huge amount of virus that can be deposited on furniture, etc. It is therefore essential to wash your hands regularly, especially in winter (during an epidemic).

Clothes must be washed above 60°C. For non-machine washable at this temperature, the garment should be placed in an outdoor environment for 14 days.

Other effective preventive measures can be taken, such as disinfecting floors, furniture, etc.

Interview conducted in Geneva by Xavier Gruffat (Editor of Creapharma/Create health)

Definition

Gastroenteritis (also known as intestinal flu) is an infection of the lining of the digestive tract of the stomach and intestines.

Gastroenteritis can often cause severe dehydration. During the winter it can cause true epidemics, as it is a very contagious infection.

Children are particularly affected by this disease.

Epidemiology

In the United States, the CDC ( Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention ) estimates that there are 19 to 21 million people infected with norovirus annually, generating 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and 570 to 800 deaths per year.

Around the world, every year around 453,000 children die before the age of 5 due to the effects of rotavirus infections, according to a German study published in 2017 in the scientific journal Deutsches Ärzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztbl Int 2017, 114: 255-62) .

Causes

Gastroenteritis is usually caused by microbes, so it can be viral or bacterial:

– Viral gastroenteritis (most frequent cause, more than 80% of cases in winter epidemics): this is a highly contagious seasonal infection that is easily transmitted by human contact when shaking hands and going to the bathroom through fecal-oral contact (hands that we forget to wash that contaminates ourselves or another when coming into contact with another individual), contact with contaminated objects and contaminated food or drink surfaces, etc. These viruses usually cause large epidemics in winter.

Know that the symptoms of viral gastroenteritis are generally less severe than those of bacterial gastroenteritis (often characterized by blood in the stool).

Rotavirus
More than a hundred viruses are responsible for viral gastroenteritis, the most famous are rotavirus and norovirus. Another study published in June 2022 in Nature (DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-04895-8 ) also showed that rotavirus transmission can be carried out by saliva, mainly by aerosols (droplets of saliva in the air). This 2022 study shows that viruses infect the salivary glands and can be transmitted through saliva. Rotaviruses multiply in the intestinal wall.
Rotavirus often causes outbreaks of gastroenteritis in children, transmission usually occurs when the child puts his fingers or a contaminated object in his mouth. Most of the time, adults do not develop symptoms if infected with rotavirus, however they can transmit the virus to children even without showing symptoms. There is an effective vaccine to prevent gastroenteritis in children caused by rotavirus, ask your doctor. According to a German study published in 2017, rotavirus infections are the most frequent cause of diarrhea in children and young children worldwide.

Norovirus
– Norovirus is typically seasonal and generally prevalent in Europe and North America in the winter through March.
– These viruses are easily transmitted by the fecal-oral route, through a contaminated drink or food, facilitating outbreaks in institutions and clusters of people, such as: nursing homes, hospitals, barracks or cruise ships. Contamination within the same family is also very common.
– According to the US CDC, transmission of norovirus occurs in 61% of cases through direct contact or by touching a contaminated surface. Direct person-to-person transmission of norovirus is also possible.
– Worldwide, it is estimated that noroviruses are mainly responsible for gastroenteric epidemics with symptoms such as diarrhea and sometimes vomiting. There are several strains of norovirus. According to Prof. Christine Moe of Emory University in Atlanta (USA), there are at least 25 different genotypes of norovirus and within those genotypes there are different strains, probably hundreds. This diverse range of different viruses is one of the reasons why it is difficult to get immunity from one season to the next, viruses change all the time and the body is unable to synthesize the antibodies needed to fight them.
Also according to Prof.🇧🇷 Christine Moe, norovirus is the most infectious group of pathogens ever described. It is estimated that only 10 to 20 virus particles are needed to infect another human.
– It is estimated that the norovirus can survive, for example, on a surface for up to 4 weeks, according to studies carried out by Prof. Moe, although the American scientist has not yet discovered whether the virus present on a surface can cause disease in a human being. Other studies have shown that the norovirus can survive up to 2 months in water at room temperature and can cause illness, as revealed in an article in the leading American newspaper The Wall Street Journal   of January 24, 2017.
– A published study in June 2022 in Nature (DOI:10.1038/s41586-022-04895-8 ) also showed that transmission of norovirus can be carried out by saliva, mainly by aerosols (droplets of saliva in the air). This 2022 study shows that viruses infect the salivary glands and can be transmitted through saliva.

Calicivirus and adenovirus are viruses that also frequently cause outbreaks of gastroenteritis.

– Bacterial gastroenteritis: this is usually food poisoning that can be caused by different bacteria such as salmonella.

Observation

– We can usually contract these microbes through contaminated water or fecal substances (transmitted by the hands, for example).

We can highlight other causes of gastroenteritis, such as certain drugs (antibiotics), or different parasites.

Symptoms

The characteristic symptoms of gastroenteritis can be:

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– acute diarrhea (with rapid and sudden onset)

– spasms, cramps and twinges in the stomach generalized like belly pain .

– vomiting and nausea

– lack of appetite

– pains

– headaches

– usually low-grade fever (in case of Rotavirus infection low-grade fever is often observed)

– fatigue, especially in cases of viral outbreak caused by norovirus.

– in severe cases such as small children (babies, newborns), dehydration (weight loss, very thirsty, dry mouth, decreased volume and frequency of urine) see a doctor as soon as possible!

– in case of viral gastroenteritis, ENT ( sore throat , colds , etc) or urinary diseases associated with gastroenteritis are observed

Duration

– Gastroenteritis usually resolves within 3 days.

– In case of gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus, it is estimated that the improvement occurs in 4 to 7 days after the first symptoms.

Viral gastroenteritis incubation time

It is estimated that the incubation time for viral gastroenteritis is 1 to 3 days. This means that the first symptoms appear 1 to 3 days after infection with the virus.

Complications

When observed in newborns, babies and young children, gastroenteritis can lead to very serious and problematic dehydration (see above), as babies have a proportionately greater amount of water than adults and we know that water is an essential element for proper functioning. of the whole organism.

Symptoms and signs of dehydration

Signs of dehydration may include: excessive thirst, weight loss, dry mouth, decreased urine volume and frequency (if the child has not peed for 8 hours, for example), dark yellow urine, rapid heartbeat, a great weakness of the body, dizziness, confusion, etc.

Apart from small children, gastroenteritis can lead to complications in weaker people (elderly people, people with weakened immune systems,….) and therefore, gastroenteritis must always be taken seriously and treated in the most appropriate way.

When to consult?

We advise you to consult a doctor (pediatrician, general practitioner), when gastroenteritis affects a newborn, a baby or a small child. As noted above, there is a very serious risk of dehydration in these young individuals.

When any suspicious symptom is observed, in children or adults: bloody diarrhea (usually a sign of bacterial gastroenteritis), greenish vomiting, persistence of symptoms (2 weeks), consult a doctor quickly.

Treatments

The first treatment to be provided in case of gastroenteritis is hydration with plenty of water and drinks rich in minerals (broths or soups), in order to prevent dehydration.

Then we can highlight different types of medicines to combat the symptoms of gastroenteritis, especially in the case of viral gastroenteritis, as in this case it is not possible to treat the cause (virus). On the other hand, in the case of bascterial gastroenteritis, antibiotics are preferably used, which makes it possible to treat the cause.

Detail of viral gastroenteritis treatments.

Gastroenteritis, treatment for adults

1. Loperamido can be used against diarrhea, to be taken for a short time, asking a specialist for advice.

2. Against microbes: antiseptics, available in pharmacies.

3. Against water and mineral loss: rehydration solutions or sachets.

4. To rebuild intestinal flora: lactic bacteria or charcoal-based medicines to absorb infectious agents.

pharmacist advice

To take the coal, you can put it in the coke, to avoid seeing the black color of the coal and more, to mask the taste. It is particularly suitable for children who will be using this treatment.

5. Against pain and/or fever: paracetamol

Gastroenteritis, treatment for young children and babies

In this case, it is highly advisable to consult a pediatrician to avoid water and mineral loss, but he may prescribe, for example:

1. A drug against water and mineral loss: ie rehydration solutions or sachets. Avoid giving small children or babies anti-diarrhoea medicines such as loramamide.

After liquid stool (diarrhea) or vomiting in children, wait 15-20 minutes to keep the stomach at rest. After this period, give the child oral rehydration solutions in several doses, avoid water which is poorly absorbed in a child suffering from gastroenteritis.

2. In severe cases of dehydration, doctors will choose to inject serums for rehydration in hospitals.

In Germany, rotavirus vaccination has been recommended since 2013 by a Vaccination Committee (STIKO, Ständige Impfkommission ) for all young children. A study published in 2017 in the scientific journal Deutsches Ärzteblatt International showed the effectiveness of this method, the vaccination of an entire population, to prevent rotavirus gastroenteritis.

Herbal medicine

The medicinal plants below can help alleviate the symptoms of gastroenteritis , but they are not the main treatments , they are a complementary measure.

– Tea black . Leave the sachet to infuse for at least 10 minutes to help release the tannins. Black tea is quite effective in containing diarrhea (due to the tannins). Occasionally add sugar to the tea to compensate for the loss of sugar.

– Aromatic calamus , to be consumed in teas.

– Bilberry , to be consumed in teas or pills.

– Chamomile , consumed in teas.

– Blackberry leaf tea

– Espinheira-Santa

– Caraway , to be consumed in teas.

– Melissa , to be consumed in teas, drops, or even in capsules.

– Mint , to be consumed in teas or capsules.

– Yarrow , to be consumed in teas. Effective against spasms.

– Bilberry , to be taken in the form of juice.

Disinfection, virus prevention

– In 2014, a study carried out by the University of Arizona (USA) showed that the essential oil of oregano , rich in carvacrol, allows the disinfection of objects, surfaces, food and drinks contaminated with norovirus, a very common cause of gastroenteritis epidemics. For oregano essential oil to be effective, it must be combined with another disinfectant. The advantage compared to the currently used conventional products is that the essential oil can result in lower virus resistance and is less toxic, especially for the disinfection of beverages and food.

Tips

– It is advisable to drink plenty of fluids to promote rehydration, drink plenty of water, plant -based teas , as well as broths, the latter is particularly recommended to compensate for the loss of minerals.

– As in the case of other infectious diseases (cold, flu), it is advisable to rest to favor the action of the immune system (of defense) against the gastroenteritis viruses.

Gastroenteritis diet – Gastroenteritis diet

– In cases of gastroenteritis of bacterial origin, it is advisable to eat foods that help rebuild the intestinal flora (currently called microbiota), for example, consuming yogurt or probiotics.

– Divide meals into small doses (so that gastric emptying is less)

– A diet rich in rice can slow down the pace and therefore reduce diarrhea (an important symptom of gastroenteritis).

– During the period of diarrhoea, meals rich in fat (for example: pizza), with a lot of sugar, dairy products, raw fruits and vegetables and coffee should be avoided. You should also know that juices like orange juice can irritate the intestines and make diarrhea worse.

Food after acute diarrhea
When diarrhea becomes less frequent, it is possible to eat bananas or apples raw, if possible, mashed. Then gradually start eating rice, potatoes, etc. This feeding should be followed for about 48 hours after the end of the diarrhea or when it becomes less frequent. Once all the symptoms are gone, especially when the stool is solid again, you can start eating normally.
Foods like rice, banana, apple and toast – known in English as BRAT ( bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) – can help with diarrhea due to the low fiber content of these foods. This helps in the formation of less liquid and harder stools. Bananas that are rich in potassium can also replace lost nutrients.

Prevention

– Wash your hands with soap (for 15 seconds) regularly, this allows you to avoid contamination and avoid transmission to other people. It is highly recommended, especially if you take care of babies.

– In case of gastroenteritis in the family or in public places, it is advisable to avoid sharing glasses.

– Be careful who you kiss or hug, as transmission can be done very easily.

– Avoid eating foods that have passed their expiry date in order to prevent food poisoning.

– Use disposable gloves in case of gastroenteritis contamination in nursing homes or other closed and very busy places.

– If clothing is contaminated by vomit or faeces, wash it at 60°C.

– Disinfect surfaces (bathrooms, floors) contaminated by vomit or feces with Javel water.

– Drink pasteurized dairy products.

Jeanne Kenney
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I’m a stylist trainer, a content creator, and an entrepreneur passion. Virgo sign and Pisces ascendant, I move easily between my dreams, the crazy world I want, and my feet on the ground to carry out my projects.

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