Gastroenteritis

There have been some reports of Norovirus-like illnesses on campus. Please read the information on this page as well as the Norovirus Fact Sheet provided by Public Health to help you stay healthy and prevent the spread of this illness.

Definition

Gastroenteritis literally means inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Commonly but wrongly called 'stomach flu' is highly contagious.


Causes

  • Viruses which infect and irritate cells within the wall of the small intestine and causes fluids, minerals and salts to flush into and out the intestines.
  • Food or water contaminated with bacteria or parasites. 

Symptoms

Nausea or Vomiting, Diarrhea, Abdominal Cramps. A young child with diarrhea or vomiting should be seen by a doctor. It is NOT essential for adults to seek medical advice unless presenting with these symptoms:

  • blood in vomit or stool
  • severe localized abdominal pain
  • high fever
  • dizziness or light-headedness when changing position (eg. moving from sitting to standing)
  • an inability to keep food or liquids down, or losing fluids faster than you can replenish them orally
  • signs of dehydration (dry mouth, dry skin, thirst, no urination in 6 hours)
  • lasts longer than 4 days

Prevention and Treatment

Frequent hand washing or using hand sanitizers provide the best defence against 'gastro'. Wash your hands before and after handling of food or food utensil, caring for the sick, changing diapers, handling garbage, using the phone, shaking hands or playing with pets.

  1. Stay at home and rest until symptoms subside.
  2. Avoid solid foods.
  3. Take only ice chips until vomiting stops.
  4. As soon as you are able, take small amounts of (approx 30ml every 15 minutes by the clock) of clear liquids such as tea, ginger ale or broth. If vomiting recurs, wait 1-2 hours before trying liquids again. Once you are retaining fluids without difficulty try to increase the amount you take each hour.
  5. After 24 hours without nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, or if hungry, try dry toast, saltines, white rice. (Add a jelly or honey for energy)
  6. Progress to soft mildly flavoured foods that are low in fibre. You may wish to use the 'BRAT' diet - Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Tea and Toast.
  7. Many people can lose the ability to digest milk sugar for 1-2 weeks after an episode of gastro. Avoid milk products, oils and spices until you are feeling better and gradually introduce them back into you diet.

Throughout, you may use Acetaminophen/Ibuprophen (unless you have liver disease) for headache or fever. You may use Gravol (orally or rectally) for nausea.

These are guidelines only. If for any other reason you feel that further attention is necessary, contact Health Services (519-824-4120 x52131).

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