Gastroenteritis, commonly referred to as the stomach flu, is an inflammation of the stomach or intestines and may cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The primary concern in gastroenteritis treatment is to avoid dehydration. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, gastroenteritis treatment may include dietary changes, the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications, or temporary hospitalization. Choosing the best gastroenteritis treatment methods depends on individual symptoms as well as the overall health of the patient, and a doctor should be contacted to help determine the best options for the individual.
Gastroenteritis treatment is primarily focused on staying properly hydrated so that dehydration does not occur. The patient should try to stay with clear liquids such as water, broth, or sports drinks, which help to replace lost electrolytes. Beverages such as milk, fruit juice, or anything with large amounts of sugar should be avoided. Solid foods may need to be avoided until the patient begins to feel better, at which time a normal diet should be resumed slowly as tolerated by the individual.
A diet commonly known as the BRAT diet is typically recommended as a form of gastroenteritis treatment. As the patient is transitioning from a liquid diet to eating solid foods again, bland foods such as bananas, rice, and toast are often the easiest foods to keep on the stomach. Once these foods are tolerated by the body, other foods can be slowly added to the diet. A doctor should be consulted with any concerns about which foods are the safest to eat during the recovery period.
If dehydration becomes severe, gastroenteritis treatment may require a brief stay in the hospital. Dehydration can become life threatening if not treated appropriately. While in the hospital, the patient will likely have a small tube, known as an IV, inserted into a vein. Any necessary medications or fluids can then be introduced directly into the body through this tube without the patient enduring a needle stick each time.
Medications are commonly used as gastroenteritis treatment options. Over-the-counter or prescription medications may be used to prevent nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Antibiotics may be used if it is determined that the condition is due to a bacterial infection. Other medications may be used if a parasite is the cause of the illness. Some medications may make the condition worse, depending on the originating cause, so this makes an accurate diagnosis vitally important.