Gastroenteritis or Food Poisoning is a disease that affects the stomach and the small intestines. It’s an acute condition usually characterised by passing of frequent watery stools and vomiting which usually occurs within few hours after eating contaminated food.
It can also be called Intestinal flu, Traveller’s diarrhoea, Viral enteritis, or Food poisoning.
Gastroenteritis is an infectious disease that is usually caused by pathogenic (disease-causing) microorganisms such as virus and bacteria which are acquired through contaminated food and water.
The major risk factor for gastroenteritis or food poisoning is improper handling and storage of food. Other factors that may put one at risk of getting the disease include
- Poor personal hygiene and sanitation
- Eating of spoilt or expired products
- Improper handling of faeces
Signs and Symptoms
Persons suffering from Gastroenteritis may present with signs and symptoms such as
- Frequent passing of watery stools (diarrhoea)
- High body temperature (fever)
- Abdominal pains
- The person may look dehydrated due to diarrhoea
What To Do When You Have Signs & Symptoms of Gastroenteritis
- Seek medical attention immediately
- Encourage the intake of fluids and if available, use ORS instead
- Foods known to soften stools must be avoided at the onset of disease. Orange juice, Caffeine containing drinks like coffee and tea and alcohol are known to soften stool. Most fruits and vegetables also softens stool.
- As much as possible, avoid Over-the-Counter medications. Note that drugs like Paracetamol and other pain relievers, Aludrox, Colodium, Trisilicate and Buscopan only remits the symptoms but does not cure it.
Gastroenteritis is classified as a Faeco-oral disease, that is, a disease that is transmitted to man from faeces. It is also a transmissible disease. Thus, all persons manifesting the symptoms of the disease must seek medical attention as quickly as possible to prevent sharing of the disease.
Other preventive measures include
- Proper hand washing with soap under running water must be done after defecation, after coming back from lectures, before handling food, eating or taking snack.
- Hand sanitizer can be used in cases soap and water is not available.
- Buy only foods prepared under good environmental conditions and from vendors who have maintained good personal and environmental hygiene.
- Food items must also be bought from places with good sanitation.
- Buying of foods from vendors that sell near gutters, refuse dump sites or toilet facilities must be discouraged
- Foods must always be eaten warm or warmed before eating.
- Foods must always be prepared under strict hygienic conditions.
- Fruits and vegetables must be washed thoroughly in salt solution or vinegar before eating
- Proper covering of food to prevent flies, cockroaches and mice from getting on it.
- Buy sachet or bottled water from credible manufacturers only
- Always double check the expiry date of packaged water before drinking
- Water supply to our hostels is usually good for general household duties only
- Always ensure that your faeces have been properly flushed before leaving the toilet
- Bad toilet manners such as squatting on the toilet seats and shits-on-shits must also be discouraged.
- Always ensure that you store enough water to be used for flushing of faeces at the hostels when the need arises.
- Rampant defecating in bushes must also be discouraged
- Avoid the habits of using your mobile devices at the toilet.
- Wash hands with soap under running water after defecation
Canned or Packaged Foods
- Double check the expiry date of all packaged foods before using and discard when expired.
- Always ensure that there is no changed in flavour, colour, breakages or foreign materials in packaged foods before using.
- Left over packaged foods especially canned foods must be poured into a covered plastic bowl and stored in a refrigerator.
- Mouthpiece of packaged drinks must be clean thoroughly before attaching the mouth for consumption. If available, drinking straws must be used.
Badoe, E.A., & Owusu S.K. (2010). Health and Disease – A Layman’s Guide to Good Health. University of Ghana Medical School. Ghana
Sommer, M.S., Johnson, S.A., & Beery, T.A. (2007). Diseases and Disorders – A Nursing Therapeutics Manual. Davis Company. Ghana