Gastro-entritis is an acute inflammation of the lining of the stomach and small bowel. It usually caused by infection from contaminated food or water. The disease affects both children and adults alike.
Symptoms of Gastro Enteritis: Gastro-entritis usually begins suddenly with a feeling of nausea and abdominal cramps, followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and weakness. There may be intense rectal burning and the stools may contain blood and mucus. The patient may pass loose or watery motions several times a day. All this loss of fluid from the bowel may result in severe dehydration, which is characterised by sunken eyes, dry skin, dry tongue, thirst, excessive weakness and occasionally muscle cramps. This may lead to a condition known as acidosis, which is indicated by deep rapid respiration as the body tries to get rid of carbondioxide. There may be pain in the abdomen, with some distention, especially in the lower areas. It is a sign of potassium deficiency. The course of disease may last from few hours to a week.
Causes of Gastro Enteritis: There are many and various causes of gastro-enteritis. Germs cause the worst attacks of this disease. Foods prepared at home and sold in restaurants are easily contaminated either by toxins or poisonous substances, produced by different types of germs. These gems multiply and form colonies in the contaminated food. Foods most frequently contaminated with these germs are various meats, fish, custards, cream-filled pastry, milk and different kinds of desserts. Some persons are allergic to certain foods, which may act as poison to them. Others react poorly to various drugs, cathartics and chemicals.
Gastro-enteritis attacks occur within two to four hours after taking the contaminated foods. Most of these attacks only last a few hours and are followed by complete recovery. In outbreaks of gastro-enteritis, a number of people are usually involved, all of whom have eaten the same food at the same time. The disease is also spread by contamination of water supply with sewage in the rains.
Treatment of Gastro Enteritis: The patient should take bed rest. As long as vomiting and nausea persist he should not be given any food. Application of gentle heat to the abdomen will help relieve spasm or pain. Plenty of boiled water mixed with electrolyte should be given to the patient to avoid dehydration. An oral rehydration solution can be made at home by extracting the juice of one lemon in a glass of water and adding a pinch of salt and five tea-spoons of sugar. This solution should be given to the patient several times a day.
To check vomiting, ice-bag should be applied over stomach, throat and spine. Cold compresses can also be applied over the abdomen with beneficial results. They should be changed every 15 or 20 minutes.
When the vomiting subsides, the patient should be given sips of some warm drink, such as barley or rice water. After the acute symptoms are over, he should be given a bland diet like rice, curd, apple and ripe bananas. Oily and spicy foods should be avoided. After complete recovery, the patient should be allowed to gradually embark upon a well-balanced diet. The emphasis should be on whole grain cereals, raw or lightly-cooked vegetables and fresh fruits.
Prevention of Gastro Enteritis: Gastro-enteritis can be prevented by not taking uncooked foods outside or stale food at home, especially in the monsoon or summer. Water should not be drunk outside the house and water should always be boiled before drinking during monsoon. All fruits and vegetables should be washed in a solution of potassium permanganate before eating them. Hands should be thoroughly washed before taking food. Nails must be cut at least once a week. Foods must be stored in a cool place free from flies and well ventilated. People who handle food, plates and containers used in cooking and serving, should strictly observe the rules for personal cleanliness. The kitchen must be kept thoroughly clean and no rubbish should be allowed to remain in or near it. It should be ensured that there is no sewage drain near water supply.