What are the Different Causes of Gastroenteritis?

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  • Written By: Deneatra Harmon
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2018
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Gastroenteritis affects the intestines and stomach lining, and it leads to infections caused by the invasion of microorganisms in the body. These microorganisms often develop into several types of viruses, which are among the main causes of gastroenteritis that infect some people. Causes of gastroenteritis also come from exposure to or ingestion of chemical toxins. Symptoms vary from person to person, but they usually appear suddenly. Medications are usually not prescribed to treat causes of gastroenteritis because symptoms usually subside on their own in a short period of time; proper hygiene practices may prevent gastroenteritis altogether.

Gastroenteritis causes an infection that inflames the small and large intestines as well as the stomach lining. It originates from a variety of infections that transmit from one person to another. For example, a person risks illness after touching an object contaminated by fecal matter.

The transmission of infection causes the development of microorganisms that create viruses within the body. Viruses cause the cells in the lining of the small intestine to multiply, thereby leading to the symptoms of gastroenteritis. Four types of viruses are the main causes of gastroenteritis including the adenovirus, astrovirus, norovirus, and the rotovirus. The adenovirus and astrovirus usually affect young children and spread from fecal-oral transmission.


Older children and adults are most affected by the norovirus, which comes from contaminated water and food. The rotovirus causes a severe form of gastroenteritis and affects mostly infants. Most viral forms of gastroenteritis can be transmitted via exposure to fecal matter, specifically if a person touches an affected surface or unknowingly passes it to food.

Other causes of gastroenteritis result from bacterial infections. E. coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter are bacterial microorganisms that can enter undercooked foods like eggs and poultry as well as unpasteurized milk. Children and adults can fall ill with bacterial gastroenteritis if they consume such contaminated products.

Chemical toxins may also cause gastroenteritis. Chemical gastroenteritis does not appear to be as common as viral or bacterial strains. Illness may result after a person consumes food or water contaminated by chemicals such as arsenic or mercury.

All types of gastroenteritis result in most of the same symptoms that last anywhere from one to seven days. Among them include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and loss of appetite. Symptoms appear at least four hours after exposure to the microorganism, whether it is viral, bacterial, or chemical.

Treatment for causes of gastroenteritis include bed rest and fluids to replace electrolytes and prevent dehydration. No specific prescription or over-the-counter medications are required because symptoms usually disappear on their own. If severe symptoms appear, however, a doctor may prescribe medicine to control diarrhea or vomiting. Once the symptoms finally resolve, a person may start eating foods such as bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast.



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