Gastroenteritis: what it is, symptoms, causes and treatment

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and intestine that usually happens after eating spoiled food, resulting in symptoms such as pain in the belly, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Most of the time, gastroenteritis is caused by eating contaminated food or drink, but it can also arise after close contact with people with gastroenteritis or putting your hands in your mouth after touching a contaminated surface.

The treatment of gastroenteritis is to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. In addition, it is also recommended to maintain a diet with foods that are easy to digest and low in fat, to help with the recovery of the digestive system. See what to eat in gastroenteritis.

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The main symptoms indicative of gastroenteritis are:

  • Severe and sudden diarrhea;
  • General malaise;
  • Stomach ache;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Body ache;
  • Low fever;
  • Headache;
  • Loss of appetite.

Symptoms of gastroenteritis can appear minutes after consuming contaminated food or take up to 1 day to develop.

Gastroenteritis online test

If you think you might have gastroenteritis, select what you’re feeling to know your chances:

The symptom test is just a tool, not serving as a diagnosis and not replacing consultation with a doctor.

How long does gastroenteritis last?

Most cases of gastroenteritis last between 3 to 5 days. However, the symptoms of this inflammation vary according to the cause of the gastroenteritis, and can last up to 10 days in some people.

How to confirm the diagnosis

To confirm the diagnosis, the general practitioner or gastroenterologist performs some physical examinations, such as checking blood pressure and listening to the heart, in addition to evaluating the signs presented and the person’s health history.

The doctor may also request some more specific tests to confirm the diagnosis, such as stool, urine and blood tests.

Gastroenteritis is more common in children and the elderly and is mainly caused by eating spoiled or contaminated food. Thus, after consumption of contaminated or spoiled food, the toxins produced by microorganisms cause irritation of the gastric mucosa and reach the bloodstream, developing viruses, bacteria or parasites in the body and causing infection.

Gastroenteritis can also occur when putting dirty hands in the mouth. However, in this situation gastroenteritis only develops when there is a high infectious load.

In addition, this inflammation can also be caused by parasites, such as Giardia Lamblia e Entamoeba histolytica by diseases, such as celiac disease, or by the use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as acetylsalicylic acid and ibuprofen.

The main types of gastroenteritis are:

1. Gastroenteritis viral

Viral gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and/or intestine caused by several types of viruses, the most common being rotavirus, norovirus and adenovirus. It is a very common and contagious disease, whose symptoms usually appear between 24 and 72 hours after exposure to the virus and, in general, last between 3 and 5 days, and can persist for up to 10 days.

Viral gastroenteritis usually happens by contact with contaminated objects or surfaces; when sharing food, drink or cooking utensils with people who have the virus; with ingestion of contaminated food and water; or by air. Learn more about viral gastroenteritis.

2. Bacterial gastroenteritis

Bacterial gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and/or intestine caused by bacteria such as Salmonella sp., Shigella sp., Campylobacter sp., Escherichia coli or Staphylococcus aureusamong others.

This type of gastroenteritis is caused by eating food or water contaminated with the bacteria or the toxic substances it produces. In addition, this type of gastroenteritis can also occur due to poor hygiene, such as not washing your hands before preparing food, after going to the bathroom or after contact with animals, for example, or it can even be transmitted from one person to another through contact with contaminated objects or surfaces.

3. Parasitic gastroenteritis

Parasitic gastroenteritis can be caused by parasites such as Giardia Lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica or Cryptosporidium. These parasites produce alterations at the intestinal level, being transmitted mainly through the ingestion of food and water contaminated with feces or through anal intercourse.

4. Non-infectious gastroenteritis

Non-infectious gastroenteritis is usually acute and is mainly caused by the use of drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat pain, inflammation and fever, such as acetylsalicylic acid, ibuprofen or diclofenac.

In addition, diseases such as Crohn’s disease and celiac disease can also cause inflammation of the intestinal mucosa, leading to non-infectious gastroenteritis.

This illness can also arise from ingestion of food toxins such as botulism or ciguatera poisoning, which is a toxin accumulated in some types of fish and shellfish. It is important to note that this type of gastroenteritis is not contagious.

Treatment of gastroenteritis mainly consists of rest, maintaining a light diet and drinking plenty of fluids.

  • rest, as gastroenteritis can cause dehydration and tiredness;
  • Light and easily digestible diet, including white rice and shelled fruit to control symptoms, helping with recovery from the infection; See how the diet in gastroenteritis should be;
  • Drinking plenty of fluids, as water, teas, coconut water, oral rehydration salts and homemade serum;
  • Use of antiemetics, such as domperidone, diphenhydramine, and granisetron may be recommended by your doctor to relieve nausea and vomiting. Check out the remedies indicated for vomiting and nausea;
  • use of antibiotics, such as azithromycin and tetracycline, may be prescribed by the doctor for the treatment of bacterial gastroenteritis;
  • Use of probiotics, can be prescribed by the doctor to regulate the intestinal bacterial flora, helping to reduce diarrhea. Learn more about the benefits of probiotics.

In more severe cases, the doctor may indicate intravenous hydration in the hospital, so that the person can stabilize more quickly.

Check out the video below for more tips on how to fight gastroenteritis:

How to prevent gastroenteritis

Some tips to prevent gastroenteritis are to wash your hands thoroughly after going to the bathroom, before cooking and before eating; avoid sharing cutlery and other objects with sick people; keeping surfaces clean in the home, especially in the kitchen; and avoid eating raw meat and fish or unwashed vegetables.

In addition, children are also at high risk of contracting gastroenteritis from infection with a virus known as rotavirus, especially when they start attending day care. In these cases, it is recommended to vaccinate against the virus during the first year of life.


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