Gastrointestinal Infections

What are Gastrointestinal Infections?

Infections of the gastrointestinal system producing frequent, watery or loose bowel actions, with or without nausea and vomiting, are very common, particularly in summer. Many of these have now been found to be due to viral infections of the gut system.

Many are probably due to eating infected food, particularly milk products (a notorious conveyor of bacteria and toxins), meat and food in general that has not been adequately refrigerated in summer.

Often there is general abdominal discomfort, with a fullness and sensation of a knot in the pit of the stomach. Soon after, this will be followed either by vomiting and/or the passage of watery stools. Often this is accompanied by a burning sensation and there is excoriation of the anal opening.

Gastrointestinal Infections Treatment

Frequently starvation for 12 – 36 hours is all that is necessary. This totally rests the bowel system, and allows the viruses to pass, rids the system of ingested toxins and those that have developed in the gut, and gives the bowel lining a chance to recuperate from the inflammation that inevitably occurs.

Dehydration is common, so that copious amounts of fluid are essential. If there is vomiting, pieces of chipped ice usually are not regurgitated and are refreshing. However, cool water is frequently the simplest and best.

Small sips of fruit juice or plain chilled water may be taken as tolerated. When the symptoms settle, light, easily digested liquid foods may be taken, such as non-fatty broth, soups (plain tomato, for example), dry biscuits, toast with vegetable extract (instead of butter). The inflamed bowel is usually intolerant of fats, which may precipitate another bout of discomfort.

In adults, the use of diphenoxylate with atropine in tablet form (Lomotil) or Imodium will often reduce bowel activity. Sometimes mixtures containing kaolin are prescribed.

Often, antibiotic-sensitive organisms are the cause, in which case antibiotics may be prescribed by the doctor. These will vary from patient to patient. A certain “bug” may be present in the community, and this too may vary.

It is wise to limit the intake of milk, cream, custard, ice-cream and similar fat-containing products for at least a week after an attack, for recurrences can commonly take place.

The majority of cases settle down quite rapidly. Attention to hygiene (particularly after toilet attendance) and sticking to the time-honored process of washing the hands with soap and water after a toilet attendance and before touching food still hold. Protecting food from flies and refrigerating it at all times, particularly in summer, is essential. Special care with food and water supplies in overseas travel is advised.

Gastric infections in babies and infants present a different picture. They can rapidly develop into serious disorders that may be life-endangering, even in these modern days. Toxic effects and dehydration are the main risks.

Any baby not responding to normal measures in 12 hours demands the attention of the doctor. Deaths in this age group still occur regularly.