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How to avoid Gastroenteritis & Cholera?
If you experience diarrhea & vomiting, you may have Gastroenteritis or commonly known as Stomach Flu. You might also experience cramping, stomach pain, fever, nausea, and a headache. You should watch out for signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth and dry skin, feeling lightheaded, and being extremely thirsty. If you or your child shows any such signs, call the doctor right away.
When a baby is involved, look for a few, dry diapers. Keep children with Gastroenteritis out of school or daycare until all symptoms are gone. Please check with your doctor before administering any medicine to your child.
Your stomach and intestines become irritable and inflamed when you have gastroenteritis. A common viral or bacterial infection is the root cause.
Similarly, Cholera is an acute bacterial infection of the gut that typically spreads through water and causes severe diarrhea and dehydration.
Dehydration and diarrhea are the main symptoms. Rarely, severe cases may lead to shock and seizures. Rehydration, intravenous fluids, and antibiotics are the first line of treatment.
So, let’s learn about these deadly diseases and how you can avoid catching them.
What causes Gastroenteritis?
Some of the common causes of gastroenteritis are:
- Contaminated food & water
- Unwashed hands after using the restroom
- Contact with someone who is suffering from Gastroenteritis
- Medications such as antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs etc.
What causes Cholera?
Cholera is caused by the consumption of contaminated food or water. Natural disasters like floods, war, and poverty force people to live in crowded places without proper sanitation thus increasing the risk of cholera.
Some people infected with cholera bacteria may not show any signs and symptoms, but still, pass bacteria in their stool which can contaminate food and water supplies and spread the infection to others.
You are at high risk of cholera infection if you:
- Consume raw or undercooked seafood
- Consume raw, unpeeled fruits and vegetables
- Live in an area affected by war, famine or flood
- Take antacids regularly
- Come in contact with a person infected with cholera
What are the Symptoms of Gastroenteritis?
Signs and symptoms of gastroenteritis usually show up within 1-3 days of catching the infection and last for 1-2 days. In severe cases, symptoms may last up to 14 days. Typical symptoms of gastroenteritis include:
- Nausea and vomiting – Vomiting is more frequent in gastroenteritis and usually lasts for a day. The stomach is unable to retain any fluids. Blood may be thrown in vomit in cases of severe infection
- Diarrhea is characterized by loose, watery stools that last longer than vomiting. Blood or mucus may be discharged in stools in severe infection
- Stomach cramps – cramping, spasmodic pain in the whole abdomen is associated with diarrhea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite or reduced desire to eat
- Bloating of the stomach due to excessive formation of gas in the intestines
The main challenge is dehydration which can be prevented if the fluid loss via vomiting & diarrhea is replaced.
Symptoms of Cholera
If you or your family gets infected with cholera, it takes 12 -28 hours to show any signs and symptoms. The disease runs a course of 2-7 days.
Look out for symptoms like:
- Diarrhea – Loose, watery, frequent bowel movements, called diarrhea, has a sudden onset of cholera and can quickly lead to massive fluid loss, which is fatal. Diarrhea because of cholera has a pale, milky appearance that resembles water in which rice has been rinsed.
- Nausea and vomiting – Vomiting occurs in the early stages of the disease and can last for hours.
- Dehydration – Dehydration, ranging from mild to severe, can develop within hours of starting of cholera symptoms and can even lead to death. Severe dehydration is said to occur when a person loses 10% or more of his body weight. Signs and symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, extreme thirst, dry, shriveled skin, sunken eyes, fatigue, irritability, little to no urination, low blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat.
- Electrolyte imbalance – Dehydration also leads to rapid loss of minerals from your blood, which is called electrolyte imbalance. Rapid loss of essential salts like sodium, chloride, and potassium can lead to muscle cramps, and if left untreated can immediately lead to death.
Cholera can also cause dangerously low levels of blood sugar and kidney failure, if not attended to immediately.
Can you prevent gastroenteritis & cholera?
Take the following precautions to reduce the risk:
- Good old-fashioned handwashing with soap and water after using the restroom and before handling food. Rub soapy, wet hands together for at least 20 seconds before rinsing to get absolutely clean hands.
- Consume only boiled water for drinking and cooking meals; even to brush your teeth.
- Eat only freshly cooked and hot food, cooked at home. Avoid any kind of street food.
- Prefer those fruits and vegetables that you can peel yourself, such as bananas, oranges, etc.
- Keep all kitchen surfaces & utensils clean.
- Clean the toilet and bathroom regularly (Especially the door handles, taps & toilet seat)
- Disinfect the water stored in your house tank
Please wash hands with soap & water as this is the best way to prevent the infection. Alcohol-based sanitizers while effective against some viruses (e.g., coronavirus) are not effective against gastroenteritis & cholera.
Home remedies for gastroenteritis & cholera
The mainstay is to replenish lost body fluids and salts through Oral Rehydration Solutions, which are available as over-the-counter packets at any pharmacy.
Give adults as much clear fluid as possible. Besides, take plenty of warm fluids, like soups, vegetable broth, coconut water, and juices to replenish your body. The person should drink fluids frequently in small amounts.
Eat bland, low-fiber, easy-to-digest foods like bananas, yogurt, rice, peeled plain potatoes, pears, etc., and start with small servings.
Avoid fried and spicy food, whole grains, nuts and seeds, corn, caffeinated drinks, sugary drinks, cold drinks, and alcohol. Also, avoid dairy products if you are lactose intolerant.
Children and toddlers with mild symptoms can continue to take their normal drinks like breast milk, cow milk, or formula.
When to seek medical help:
- In cases of severe diarrhea, vomiting, and fluid loss, consult your doctor immediately. He might administer intravenous fluids to help recover your fluid loss and prescribe the right medications for your condition.
- Vomiting in an adult or child aged above 2 years, lasts for more than 1 day. A child under the age of 2 years has vomiting or diarrhea for more than 12 hours.
- Vomit or diarrhea turns bloody
- The person experiences severe dehydration. The symptoms of severe dehydration which require immediate medical attention include:
- Extremely thirsty
- Little or no urination
- Dry mouth
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Rapid heartbeat and breathing
- Blurred vision
- Decreased alertness or temporary confusion
For any kind of gastrointestinal disease, speak with our experienced CareFirst doctor by booking an online appointment for a virtual visit.
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