Bacterial gastroenteritis : Treatment

Treatment

You will usually recover from the most common types of bacterial gastroenteritis within a couple of days. The goal is to make you feel better and avoid dehydration.

  • Don’t eat solid foods until the diarrhea has passed, and avoid dairy products, which can make diarrhea worse (due to a temporary state of lactose intolerance).
  • Drink any fluid (except milk or caffeinated beverages) to replace fluids lost by diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Give children an electrolyte solution sold in drugstores. See also: Diarrhea in children

If you have diarrhea and are unable to drink fluids (for example, due to nausea or vomiting), you may need medical attention and intravenous fluids (fluids into your veins). This is especially true for young children.

If you take diuretics, you need to manage diarrhea carefully. Talk to your health care provider — you may need to stop taking the diuretic while you have the diarrhea. NEVER stop or change medications without talking to your health care provider and getting specific instructions.

For the most common causes of bacterial gastroenteritis, your doctor would NOT prescribe antibiotics, unless the diarrhea is unusually severe.

You can buy medicines at the drugstore that can help stop or slow diarrhea. Do not use these medicines without talking to your health care provider if you have bloody diarrhea or a fever. Do not give these medicines to children.

Prognosis (Expectations)

In most cases, symptoms improve with fluid and electrolyte replacement within a week. Rare cases of kidney failure or death related to bacterial gastroenteritis have been reported.

There have been increasing incidents of local outbreaks of severe infection with certain strains of E. coli bacteria. These outbreaks can be dangerous, especially to the elderly or very young children.

Complications

  • Dehydration
  • Kidney failure (rare)
  • Low blood counts (anemia)
  • Systemic (body-wide) infection

Calling Your Health Care Provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:

  • You have blood or pus in your stools, or your stool is black
  • You have abdominal pain that does not go away after a bowel movement
  • You have symptoms of dehydration (thirst, dizziness, light-headedness)
  • You have a fever above 101°F, or your child has a fever above 100.4°F, along with diarrhea
  • You have recently traveled to a foreign country and developed diarrhea
  • Your diarrhea does not get better in 5 days (2 days for an infant or child), or gets worse
  • Your child has been vomiting for more than 12 hours (in a newborn under 3 months you should call as soon as vomiting or diarrhea begins)


Review Date : 1/20/2010
Reviewed By : Linda Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine; and George F Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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