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Gastroenteritis – Treatment

October 20, 2021


In the vast majority of people, gastroenteritis will get better by itself. However, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot we can do to help you feel better and often get better faster. The most important thing is making sure you don’t get dehydrated. A key thing here is to take fluids with salt and sugar. Water by itself may not fully absorb, it might just give you more diarrhea. If you have salt and sugar in it, it’s going to absorb into your body better. For kids older than two years, Gatorade is a great option. For other kids, you should use what’s called oral rehydration solution, which is a solution that’s made of sugar and salt. You can Google instructions how to make it from the World Health Organization, or you can buy things like Pedialyte. In general, while Loperimide can be useful for adults, we don’t recommend using it in children because there is a little bit of an association with complications, and for older people using it, it can cause some cramps.

Although if you do have an emergency or some place you have to be, it will help you not go to the bathroom as much. Your doctor can also help you with nausea, vomiting, the lack of appetite by prescribing Ondansetron, which is otherwise known as Zofran. An earlier return to diet will help your intestine heal, and so being able to take Zofran will not only make you feel better so you don’t feel as nauseated or like you’re gonna throw up, but it’ll also help you eat more. And being able to eat more will help your intestine heal from all the damage that was done by the infection. Accordingly, you don’t actually need to do things like the BRAT diet. We’ve been told for a long time that this is helpful for healing from gastroenteritis, but in practice, it actually doesn’t seem to help that much and may actually prolong symptoms a little bit.

While returning to a regular diet may cause you to have a bit more diarrhea initially, it will also make the duration of your illness shorter. So in the long run, it’s worth it. For feeling better one or two days faster is going to make you a lot happier. In certain cases, your doctor may recommend probiotics to help restore your gut microbiome. This may help you, again, have a little bit shorter duration of illness, up to about a day. Generally, however, antibiotics are never that useful. When you look at studies of this, even if it is a bacterial infection, which, like I said before, it’s mostly not, the antibiotics actually tend to cause a lot of the same symptoms you get in gastroenteritis. So you end up with nausea, vomiting, sometimes diarrhea. In addition, they destroy the good bacteria that live in your intestines. And so it delays and sort of makes harder for your body to heal afterwards. And lastly, there is a risk of something called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is that if you kill all the bacteria too fast, it can actually release a toxin that damages your kidneys. It can make you very sick. So broadly we do try to avoid using antibiotics for these infections, because in general, they tend not to make you feel any better. In summary, generally, when you have gastroenteritis, you won’t need a hospital stay or even an emergency room. But if you do find that you’re getting dehydrated or you’re noticing blood in your stool or anything else that’s very concerning or having a lot of pain, you may need a trip to the ER to make sure that you’re safe and stable.

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