Acute gastroenteritis, known colloquially as a stomach bug, is an intestinal inflammation following an infection that affects the mucous membranes present in the stomach and intestine. This condition is due, in the vast majority of cases, to a virus or, more rarely, a bacterium. Acute gastroenteritis usually refers to a viral attack. Highly contagious, viral gastroenteritis can cause veritable epidemics, especially in winter, between November and March. The virus most frequently involved is the rotavirus and the evolution of this type of gastroenteritis usually lasts less than a week, sometimes up to 20 days in cases of infringement by an adenovirus. Acute gastroenteritis frequently affects children, and typically no treatment is necessary.
The symptoms of gastroenteritis are:
- nausea or vomiting;
- abdominal pain.
These signs are not necessarily all present at the same time, and in some cases there will be no fever, no vomiting and no diarrhea. The disease lasts usually a week at most. In case of a longer duration, causes other than viral origin must be sought.
Gastroenteritis, given the physical symptoms it causes, is easily diagnosed, especially in the case of an epidemic. No further examination is typically necessary. In case of an episode lasting beyond one week or where symptoms are poorly tolerated, a doctor will order a blood and stool exam so as to search for a possible bacterial infection.
Treatment of gastroenteritis usually requires rest and no medication. When symptoms are very bothersome, treatments such as anti-diarrheal or emetic drugs may be prescribed. In children, they are prescribed more frequently, because there is an elevated risk of dehydration. For a toddler, weight should be monitored and, if necessary, oral rehydration solutions should be routinely given, to help the child overcome water losses. For older children, if there is severe vomiting during food intake, it is recommended to gradually increasing amounts of sugar water before resuming normal eating.
Prevention of viral gastroenteritis is possible since it is a frequently occurring in epidemic. To do this, you have to practice simple things like washing your hands routinely with soap and water, after using the toilet, or after contact with an infected person. It is also necessary to wash fruits and vegetables before eating them.