First Aid for Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Gastroenteritis is a common condition. Millions suffer from it every year. Inadequate treatment of gastroenteritis causes the death of 5-8 million people worldwide each year. It is also one of the leading causes of death among infants and children under 5 years old.

Causes of gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis may be caused by any of the following:

  • Viruses
  • Food or water contaminated by bacteria or parasites
  • Reaction to a new food. Young children may develop signs and symptoms for this reason. Infants who are breast-fed may even react to a change in their mothers’ diets.
  • Side effect from medications.

Signs and symptoms of gastroenteritis

Signs and symptoms of gastroenteritis include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal Cramps
  • Bloating

Sometimes a low-grade fever comes with these symptoms. Symptoms may last from a day to longer than a week, depending on the cause of gastroenteritis.

What to do if you have gastroenteritis

  • If you think you have gastroenteritis:
  • Stop eating and drinking for a few hours and let your stomach settle.
  • Drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration.
  • Ease back into eating. Start eating bland, easy-to-digest foods such as crackers, gelatin, bananas, rice and chicken. Stop eating if your symptoms return. Do not drink milk or consume dairy products, as well as alcohol, nicotine, and fatty or highly seasoned foods for a few days.
  • Consider taking acetaminophen to relieve your discomfort, except if you have liver disease.
  • Get plenty of rest. Illness, plus dehydration can make you weak and tired.

When to seek emergency medical help

  • Seek emergency medical assistance if:
  • Vomiting persists for more than 2 days
  • Diarrhea lasts for longer than several days
  • Diarrhea is bloody
  • Fever is 101 F (38.3 C) or higher
  • You feel faint or lightheaded when you stand
  • Confusion develops
  • Troublesome abdominal pain develops

What to do if your child has gastroenteritis

If you think your child has gastroenteritis:

Let him/her rest

When your child’s vomiting stops, start giving him/her small amounts of an oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte. Do not use water alone. Water is not absorbed properly in kids with gastroenteritis, which means it won’t adequately replace lost fluids. Also avoid giving your child milk and apple juice since it makes diarrhea worse.

You may give your child acetaminophen to relieve his/her discomfort. Do not give your child acetaminophen, if your child has liver disease. Avoid giving your child aspirin.

If you child is still an infant, let his/her stomach rest for 30-60 minutes, then give him/her small amounts of liquid, or nurse him/her if you are breast-feeding. If your baby is bottle-fed, give him/her a small amount of oral rehydration formula.

When to seek emergency medical help

Seek emergency medical assistance if your child:

  • Becomes unusually drowsy
  • Vomits Blood
  • Has bloody diarrhea
  • Shows signs of dehydration including dry mouth and skin, marked thirst, sunken eyes, or crying without tears. In an infant, be on the look out for the soft spot on top of the head becoming sunken, and to diapers that remain dry for more than 8 hours.
  • Is younger than 2 years old and has a fever for longer than a day, or is 2 years old and older and has fever for more than 3 days

Source: Mayo Clinic