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Written by Dr. Ajay Hotchandani   
Thursday, 04 September 2014 00:00

Back to Basics – Acute Gastroenteritis (Stomach Bug)

On August 25th, 2014 the Ministry of Health issued a press release regarding Acute Gastroenteritis (AGE).  The MOH, along with PAHO and CARPHA released a study revealing the impact AGI has on a society as it pertains to Burden of Illness. 

Without going into detailed medical terminology, AGE is simply an infection of the stomach and small intestines that usually results in diarrhea, vomiting and/or stomach cramps.  It is often referred to as stomach flu, stomach bug or food poisoning.  The infectious agent is transferred via contaminated food, water or coming in contact with someone who has the infection.  Often times when infants and children have AGE, several days after one of the parent develops it due to exposure from caring for the child and cleaning up the mess.

The most common signs of the condition are vomiting and diarrhea.   A patient may also experience headaches, nausea, slight fever, feeling tired and muscle aches.  The muscle aches along the abdominal region is common especially if you have been vomiting nonstop.  Every time you vomit your abdomen contracts as though you are doing a sit up (exercising).  The soreness can be due to aggressive contractions of the abdominal muscles that your body may not be used to (seeing as how you don’t exercise).

How long does it last?  Each person reacts differently and recovery can be based on several factors.  The usual course is about 2-3 days to fully resolve, however it may last up to a week.  The key thing to note   is while you are sick you also are at a risk of passing it on to someone else, especially if proper hand washing protocol isn’t adhered to.   Also, make sure toilet seats and any items in that area are properly sanitized; a simple soap and water mixture will greatly help reduce transmission rates.

What if you get sick?  For the most part the condition is self resolving and needs to be treated symptomatically.  The main issue that has to be addressed is hydration – preventing dehydration.  Over the counter liquids such a pedialyte are a good source of fluids and electrolytes.  Many prefer the taste of sports drinks such a Gatorade.  The problem with Gatorade is that the sugars in it may aggravate the diarrhea.  If you are going to use Gatorade I would suggest mixing it with water 50/50 mixture.  If someone cannot tolerate fluids orally you must consider taking them to the doctor (clinic or hospital) to get IV hydration, especially children.  With kids it is better to be safe than sorry, if you are unsure take them in to get checked and hydrated.  Some people see coconut water as a good source of rehydration, and for adults that can work.   Again, for children and infants, if they are not able to drink pedialyte or water you must take them in to get checked and rehydrated via IV. 

The main issue when dealing with AGE is to practice proper hygiene – washing of hands, cleaning of toilets, proper food preparation and access to clean water.  With the start of school season there is often a spike as kids are not exactly known to be keen on washing their hands, so it is important for parents to properly educate kids on washing hands ESPECIALLY before eating.   Employers, please ensure your work place has proper access to soap and water, this will help reduce sick days amongst employees.