What is Gastro?
Gastro or gastroenteritis is usually a short-term illness triggered by the infection and inflammation of the digestive system.
Typical symptoms include a loss of appetite, feeling nauseous, abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea.
While very unpleasant, most gastro bugs and symptoms pass in a few days.
What causes gastro?
Most gastroenteritis is caused by a virus. The norovirus, calicivirus and the rotavirus are the usual culprits.
Bacterial gastro comes from under cooked meat, particularly poultry, and is found in animal faeces. We get bacterial gastro from eating under cooked meats and not thoroughly washing hands after handling infected animals.
Some parasites can also cause gastro. The ‘giardia’ parasite can make its way into our system by drinking contaminated water, handling infected animals or changing the nappy of an infected baby and not washing your hands afterwards.
What to do:
The main concern with gastro is dehydration. Drink plenty of fluids. Oral rehydration drinks like gastrolyte or hydralyte are recommended. Sipping small amounts of fluids very regularly is a good strategy.
Anti-vomiting or anti-diarrhoea drugs are not generally recommended as the bugs are better out of you rather than retaining them in your system.
Antibiotics will be needed if the cause of your gastro is bacterial. Drugs will be needed if a parasite is the cause. A GP will determine if these are needed, most likely following some investigations.
Gastro in children or babies
Babies under 6 months with gastro can become dehydrated very quickly. They need to be checked by a GP.
If breast feeding your child, continue to do so even feeding more often.
For all children give small amounts of fluids often. A few mouthfuls every 15 minutes.
Your child may refuse food when first having gastro. This is not a problem as long as they are drinking fluids.
RED FLAGS FOR CHILDREN AND BABIES
Seek urgent medical help if your child is very dehydrated and unable to keep any fluids down or if you are concerned in any way. Not passing urine, appear pale with dry lips and mouth, are listless or rag-doll like baby are all red flags that require immediate medical attention.
It’s very infectious!
Gastro is very contagious. The best defence is to thoroughly and regularly wash your hands with soap and water and/or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.