Gastrointestinal Illness: Prevention
Please take measures to avoid spreading a gastrointestinal illness. Hand washing is the single most important measure to take. Hand gels are not sufficient. Always use soap and water. Click here to learn more about how to protect yourself and others:
Gastrointestinal Illness: Symptoms and Treatment
Gastrointestinal illness is typically manifested with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It may also be accompanied by fever and chills and abdominal pain and cramping. It can be caused by a number of different infections or a variety of other factors. In most cases, the cause is not usually determined.
Most cases resolve on their own within a few days without treatment, however, there are some things that you can do to help with your symptoms when needed:
- Drink adequate fluids – The fluids should contain water, salt, and sugar. Diluted fruit juices along with salted crackers and broths or soups are acceptable and provide variety. Judge your fluid intake by the color of your urine. If you are urinating infrequently, less than once every three to five hours, or if your urine is dark yellow, you need to drink more fluids.
- Diet – Boiled starches are best, like rice, oats, or potatoes. Crackers, bananas, and boiled vegetables may also be eaten.
- Fever Reduction – Acetaminophen is usually the best option, as it is easier on your stomach than other fever reducers.
- Anti-Nausea Medications – Most medicines for nausea are only available by prescription. If nausea and vomiting are persistent, you will likely want to see your healthcare provider to see if they are needed. Don’t take those prescribed to others as many have significant, potentially life-threatening drug interactions or may not be right for your condition.
- Anti-Diarrheal Medications – Medicine to reduce diarrhea should not be taken if you have a fever (temperature > 100.3 F (38 C)) or if the diarrhea is bloody.
When to seek additional care is always a difficult decision. Here are some warning signs that indicate you are not going to be able to handle this on your own and should prompt you to see your healthcare provider:
- Symptoms of dehydration (dry mouth/tongue, muscle or abdominal cramps, lightheadedness with positional changes, dark urine, infrequent urination, and confusion),
- Blood in the vomitus, bright red or coffee ground in appearance,
- Bloody, mucous containing, or black diarrhea,
- Elevated temperature unrelieved with a fever reducing medication or > 101 F (38.5 C)
- Severe abdominal pain, or
- More than 6 watery stools in 24 hours or symptoms lasting more than 48 hours.