Here’s what you need to know about gastrointestinal infections

A bunch of viruses, parasites, and bacteria are known to cause gastrointestinal infection. Diarrheal diseases are reported to be the cause of death for 1 in 9 children worldwide according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease is reported to affect children more than malaria, AIDS, and measles combined.

Symptoms of gastrointestinal infection
Gastrointestinal infections usually last only for a few days. However, in some cases, they continue for as long as 14 days. The condition is marked by discomfort and abdominal cramps, further followed by diarrhea. Other symptoms of chronic gastrointestinal infection include vomiting, loss of appetite, fever, nausea, dehydration, muscle aches, headache, weight loss, and blood or mucus in stools.

Causes of gastrointestinal infections
There are three major causes of gastrointestinal infections, they are- bacterial, parasite, and viral.

  • Bacterial
    E. coli-
    E. coli bacterias are found in the intestines of both humans as well as animals. Most strains of the e. coli are harmless. However, there are some harmful strains that secrete toxins which may cause bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. Food that comes in contact with animal manure or contaminated water spread e. coli. It can also spread through human contact directly as well.
    Salmonella– Salmonella is a bacterial infection that is commonly caused by eating undercooked or raw meat, eggs, and poultry. Majority of salmonella infections are classified as gastroenteritis.
  • Parasite
    – Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that causes cryptosporidiosis. This parasite is one of the leading cause of waterborne disease. The parasite has an outer shell that helps in surviving outside of a host and also, helps in tolerating chlorine disinfection.
    Giardiasis– Giardia is a parasite that spreads easily through human contact as well as contaminated water. Infection occurs due to bathing in contaminated streams and lakes as well as drinking water from the same.
  • Viral
    Rotavirus– Rotavirus is the leading cause of viral gastrointestinal infections in children all over the world. Rotavirus vaccines are available only in some countries. When objects contaminated with this virus are touched by children and the put the same fingers in their mouth, they get infected.
    Norovirus– This virus is the most common cause of an illness that spreads through food. It is more likely to spread among people in restricted places. This virus mostly spreads through food and water. However, it can spread to human contact as well.

Treatment of gastrointestinal infections
The most common way to treat gastrointestinal infections is usually to take self-care measures. Antibiotics usually don’t prove effective from parasites and viruses. Antibiotics are usually helpful in only complicated cases of bacterial infections. However, it may prolong the condition as well along with increasing the risk of relapse. In certain types of gastrointestinal infections, consumption of antibiotics can lead to dangerous complications. The doctor determines if antibiotics are needed or not based on the type of infection and its severity. Also, in addition, the doctor may recommend avoiding foods that are high in fiber as they worsen the condition. Hydration is one of the most important self-care measures to take during gastrointestinal infections.