Viral gastroenteritis is an infection of the gastrointestinal tract that is characterized by crampy pains in the abdomen, watery diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and fever.
Gastroenteritis or stomach flu usually resolves within 5 to 7 days. If you are otherwise healthy, you will recover without any complications. However, in case of infants, old people and people having compromised immune system, viral gastroenteritis can be lethal.
Viral Gastroenteritis Causes
Viral gastroenteritis occurs when one drinks or eats contaminated water or food, or one shares personal belongings such as: towels, napkins, utensils or food with a person who is infected.
- Rotavirus is an important cause of viral gastroenteritis. Adults infected with the virus may not show any symptoms, but can spread the infection.
- Norovirus spreads quickly among people living in constrained and cramped environments. The virus spreads via person-to-person contact and sharing infected things.
- Raw or under-cooked oysters cause viral gastroenteritis too. The virus is spread by the fecal-oral route.
Viral Gastroenteritis Symptoms
Commonly seen symptoms and manifestations are:
- Abdominal discomfort, cramps and pain in the abdomen
- Watery diarrhea
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle pains
- Low grade fever
- Occasionally, there could be blood in the vomit or the stools
- Fatigue, excessive thirst, dry mouth, dark yellow urine, giddiness and light-headedness
- Sluggishness, irritability, and bad temper
There is no specific treatment for viral gastroenteritis. The treatment comprises of self care measures and symptomatic management; that is mainly aimed at reinstating the lost fluids and electrolytes from the body, to combat dehydration. Make sure you follow these guidelines:
- Do not eat solid foods for 5 to 8 hours after the attack.
- Take small sips of water, frequently. Consume lots of fluids and pure water to make up for the lost fluids and electrolytes. Lime water, fresh fruit juices, broths, stews, soups and barley water is recommended. These will help put back the lost fluid and they also fight lassitude and weariness.
- Step by step, ease back in to eating. Start with easy to digest, bland foods such as apples, bananas, toast, rice and stews. Stop eating in case nausea returns.
- Steer clear of milk and its products, alcohol, caffeinated beverages, sugary foods, nicotine, greasy foods, refined foods and highly seasoned foods for a few days.
- Dehydration makes you feeble and tired. Rest and sleep will hasten recovery.
- Be careful about medications. Certain pain medications upset the stomach even more. Do not pop any pills and make sure you talk to your physician before taking any medicines.
- Take particular care with infants, children and elderly people. Those having suppressed immune systems must be monitored carefully as well.
- Infants and children should be administered oral rehydration solutions; they restore the fluids faster and also re-establish the lost minerals.
- Homeopathy medicines generate instant relief too. They assuage nausea and vomiting almost immediately; and manage abdominal cramps and diarrhea within 2 to 3 hours.
Prognosis or outcome for a case of viral gastroenteritis is good. The only complication that could affect the prognosis of viral gastroenteritis is dehydration. Thus, drink plenty of water and juices to reinstate the lost fluids and electrolytes, and dehydration will not occur.
Nonetheless, there is a strong possibility that infants, children, old people and people with weak immune mechanisms may get severely dehydrated. Then, hospitalization becomes necessary. Seldom is dehydration fatal.