Eating a plate of pani puri from your street-corner bhaiya, or a plate of cold fruit salad to beat the heat may not be such a good idea this season as a host of gastrointestinal and stomach infections are already making the rounds in Bangalore.
Virus, bacteria and other micro organisms might just be lurking in those tasty concoctions that we all feel so tempted to get our hands on, and if infected, you may have to make several trips to doctors as acute gastroenteritis (GE) could get you.
Dr George Alexander, consultant gastroenterologist, Columbia Asia Hospital, says the ailment causes severe dehydration and exhaustion.
Describing the earliest symptoms, he says, “Severe loose motion and stomach cramps, diarrhoea, fever and vomiting are the signs. A stool analysis will show pus cells, and stool culture will reveal specific infections.”
While acute GE is now common as a standalone infection, GI infections are also part of typhoid and dengue, he says. “These organisms infect us through contaminated food and water, and they are very active during this season. So avoid eating from unhygienic roadside vendors and unclean restaurants. It is also very important to wash your hands thoroughly before and after eating.”
The infection can also spread within families through the faeco-oral route. If a person does not clean his hands properly after using the toilet, the infection can spread, says Dr Alexander.
Apart from unhygienic food, bacteria causing gastroenteritis may be present in pork, dairy products, meat, eggs, water in swimming pools and also in ground beef, salads and poultry.
The ideal diet for an infected person is bland food with absolutely no oil. “Infected people will suffer from dehydration, and fluid intake becomes very important. Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) is a must,” he says.
It is important to see which part of the gastrointestinal tract is affected, says Dr Dinesh Kini, director - Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Sakra World Hospital. How does one find that out?
“If the small intestine is affected, it will lead to watery explosive stools more than 10 times a day, without blood or mucus. It is an indication that the large intestine is infected if the patient has four to five stools in semi-solid form with mucus or even blood,” he says.
Dr Ravindra B S, senior consultant, Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Therapeutic Endoscopy, BGS Global Hospitals, warns of eating food outside this season as you may also contract jaundice - hepatitis A and E - or typhoid.
“Those with diarrhoea should take plenty of water, tender coconut, curd rice, butter milk, idlis, rice and dal. People suffering from jaundice should avoid oily and spicy foods and meat. Aerated drinks and alcohol are also a big no,” he advises.
Children, be extra careful
The season can turn ugly for kids who are likely to contract stomach infections, says Dr Veerendra Sandur, consultant in Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Fortis Hospital. “Rotavirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in children. Viruses cause about 70 per cent of episodes of infectious diarrhoea in the paediatric age group,” he says.
“Parents should immediately consult a doctor if the child does not show any improvement in two days. If a child over three months of age continues to vomit even 12 hours after starting home remedies, or if an infant of less than 90 days has diarrhoea or vomiting, you should call your doctor,” he says.
Adults who are recovering may try sipping broth or soup and fruit juices with no added sugar. “At a later stage, try soft fruits or vegetables, but avoid milk products as well as fatty, high fibre or sweet foods until the diarrhoea subsides. Soft drinks aggravate the diarrhoea,” he says.
When to see the doc
It depends on the duration and severity of the problem. If a person experiences high fever or dehydration that does not subside with home medication and persists for more than five days, then it is time to see the doctor. If there is blood in the stools, see the doctor immediately.
“As uncomfortable as diarrhoea may be, it is usually short-lived. Drink enough fluids, follow your doctor’s instructions, and you will feel better in no time,” Dr Sandur adds.
How to prevent bacterial gastroenteritis
Avoid unpasteurised milk, raw meat or shellfish
Use different chopping boards for raw and cooked meat
Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before preparing salads
While storing foods for more than a couple of hours, make sure temperatures are either very hot or very cold
Keep your kitchen clean, wash your hands after using the toilet, handling food, touching animals and before eating
Always carry bottled water during travel
Take vaccines recommended by your physician
Symptoms you experience could include:
loss of appetite
nausea and vomiting
abdominal pain and cramps
blood in the stools
high grade fever
Tips to treat mild bacterial gastroenteritis at home
Drink fluids at regular intervals throughout the day, especially after an episode of diarrhoea
Eat small meals in shorter spans of time and include salty meals
Eat potassium-rich foods, juices and bananas
Always consult your doctor before taking medicine
If you are not able to retain fluids in your body, you need to visit a hospital
Wash your hands thoroughly before handling food and avoid preparing food as it may spread the infection
Wait for 48 hours after your symptoms stop before returning to work