Gastroenteritis is an illness that affects the stomach and intestines. Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, headache, and fever.
To prevent gastroenteritis:
- Always wash your hands
- before preparing foods
- after using the toilet
- after changing diapers
- Do not eat raw meat. Always make sure meat is completely cooked.
- Do not let foods sit out for a long time. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot so bacteria will not grow in them.
- Refrigerate and freeze foods in shallow containers for complete cooling.
- Clean cutting boards and items used to prepare raw foods before using them again.
If you are camping or hiking and need to drink water from lakes, rivers, or streams, boil the water for one minute, treat it with chlorine or iodine, or use an iodine-based water filter system.
If you travel in developing countries, only drink bottled water or treat the water like you would when camping. Do not use ice made from untreated water and do not brush your teeth with tap water. If you eat fruit or vegetables make sure they have been peeled, cooked, or washed in water treated with chlorine or iodine. Do not eat foods if you are not sure that they are clean and safe.
If You Get Gastroenteritis
Gastroenteritis is caused by many things including bacteria, viruses, toxins, and parasites. The length of time you are sick depends on the cause of your illness. Most people get well in two or three days without seeing a doctor.
Some people become dehydrated from losing too many fluids during vomiting and diarrhea. They may have trouble eating. Drinking lots of water and eating foods like bananas, rice, apple sauce, and crackers can help prevent dehydration. Alcohol, soft drinks, or sports drinks may make the dehydration worse.
Dehydration is very harmful in babies. Besides vomiting and having trouble eating, dehydrated babies may be hard to waken or have sunken eyes. Even when they are sick, breastfeeding babies should continue to breastfeed.
To treat mild dehydration in people of all ages, use oral rehydration or maintenance solutions.
Promptly see a doctor if:
- you cannot eat or drink
- you become dizzy
- you have a high fever
- you have diarrhea for more than two days
- you have bloody diarrhea
- your baby has a high fever or sunken eyes
Some over-the-counter medicine can make you more sick so check with your doctor before taking any.