Acute Gastroenteritis – Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

It is an acute diarrheal disease caused by bacterial infection, or sometimes due to a viral infection. The incubation period is 1-7 days. It may be as short as 6 hours.

Signs and symptoms

1. Sudden onset of diarrhoea (watery stools)
2. Abdominal cramps.
3. Nausea and vomiting
4. Mild fever.
5. Dehydration may be severe.

Treatment and nursing care

1. If there is a delay in getting medical aid, the nurse should try to prepare oral rehydration fluid as follows.

  • Boiled water, 1 liter (4 cups)
  • Glucose powder 20gms or 8 level teaspoons.
  • Common salt (Sodium chloride) 2 gm or ½ level teaspoon.
  • Baking soda (Sodium bi-carbonate) 2 gm or ½ level teaspoon.
  • Potassium chloride, 1½ gm or ½ level teaspoons.

2. The amount of fluid loss must be replaced, either by mouth or by intravenous fluids immediately. Adults and older children should have plenty of clear fluids such as coconut water, sweetened tea without milk etc. As the patient recovers, a bland diet with well-boiled rice, biscuits, etc may be given.

3. Babies may have rice water or oral rehydration fluid in small sips and every 5 to 10 minutes and should continue feeding.

4. Antibiotics such as ampicillin or tetracycline may be given as per doctor’ s prescription.

Preventive and Control Measures

1. Isolation and strict rules to prevent cross- infection in hospitals.
2. Maintain cleanliness of food, water and milk.
3. Fly control, and protection of food.
4. Breastfeeding for babies. If the baby is fed with formula feeds, fluids and all utensils used must be boiled.
5. Sanitary disposal of faces.

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