From the history of your gastroenteritis and the physical exam, the doctor will assess how dehydrated you are. Self-care at home by drinking fluids may help relieve your symptoms and avoid dehydration.
Self-Care at Home
The mainstay of home treatment of gastroenteritis is to drink fluids. Fluid intake helps correct electrolyte imbalance, which may stop vomiting.
- Dehydration in children: Children should be given oral rehydration solutions such as Pedialyte, Rehydrate, Resol, and Rice-Lyte.
- Cola, tea, fruit juice, and sports drinks will not correctly replace fluid or electrolytes lost from diarrhea or vomiting. Nor will plain water. The intestines irritated by gastroenteritis do not absorb plain water as well. In addition, plain water will not replace electrolytes and may dilute electrolytes to the point of seizures.
- After each loose stool, children younger than 2 years should be given 1-3 ounces of any of the rehydration solutions. Older children should be asked to drink 3-8 ounces. Adults should drink as much as possible.
- This guideline serves only to replace fluid loss due to diarrhea. Drink additional fluid equal to the amount you normally drink.
- In underdeveloped nations or regions without available commercial pediatric drinks, the World Health Organization has established a field recipe for fluid rehydration: Mix 2 tablespoons of sugar (or honey) with ¼ teaspoon of table salt and ¼ teaspoon of baking soda. (Baking soda may be substituted with ¼ teaspoon of table salt.) Mix in 1 liter (1 qt) of clean or previously boiled water.
- You will need solid foods eventually to help end the diarrhea. After 24 hours, begin to offer bland foods with the BRAT diet-bananas, rice, applesauce without sugar, toast, pasta, or potatoes.
- Dehydration in adults: Although adults and adolescents have a larger electrolyte reserve than children, electrolyte imbalance and dehydration may still occur as fluid is lost through vomiting and diarrhea. Severe symptoms and dehydration usually develop as complications of medication use or chronic diseases such as diabetes or kidney failure. But symptoms may occur in healthy people.
- Initially, adults should eat ice chips and clear, noncaffeinated, nondairy liquids such as Gatorade, ginger ale, fruit juices, and Kool-Aid or other commercial drink mixes.
- After 24 hours of fluid diet without vomiting, begin a soft-bland solid diet such as the BRAT diet.
Upon seeking medical attention, if you cannot take fluids by mouth because of vomiting, the doctor may insert an IV to put fluid back into your body (rehydration). With severe symptoms, a surgeon, toxicologist, gastroenterologist, or other specialist may see you.
Doctors usually don’t give antibiotics until bacteria have been identified. Antibiotics may be given for certain bacteria, specifically Campylobacter, Shigella, and Vibrio cholerae, if properly identified through laboratory testing. Otherwise, using any antibiotic or the wrong antibiotic can worsen some infections or make them last longer.