A little bit about the difference between bacteria and a virus
Bacterial gastro occurs when bacteria has caused an infection in your gut. The difference between a virus and bacteria is simple. Both are airborne, however, a virus needs a living host to survive and multiply. When a virus enters your body, it will invade your cells and cause an immune response as it replicates itself inside the host. It does this by causing the cell it has taken over to make copies of the viral cell. It then destroys the host cell and takes over the body. Most viruses can be vaccinated against and people with a strong immune system can often fight off the virus without risking severe infection.
Bacteria are bigger than a virus.
They exist in abundance in both living hosts, soil, water and plants, as well as other areas of the planet. They can be beneficial or harmful. For example, the bacteria in our gut helps us to digest and process food – this is a beneficial bacteria. Antibiotics help to cure the infection of harmful bacteria. The biggest difference between viruses and bacteria is that bacteria can cultivate on non-living surfaces. A virus on the other hand, changes the host cell’s genetic material to reproduce the virus itself.
To get to the point, bacterial gastro causes an infection in your gut, which results in your stomach and intestines swelling and becoming inflamed. It is often the result of poor hygiene of consuming contaminated food or water.
Causes of bacterial gastro
There are a number of strands of bacteria that can lead to bacterial gastro, these being:
- E. coli which are found in salads and often ground beef.
- Bacteria found in pork called Yersinia.
- Shigella which is often found in swimming pools and water.
- Common bacteria found in meat, eggs and dairy products is known as Salmonella.
- Staphylococcus is also found in dairy products, eggs and meat.
- Campylobacter is found in meat and poultry.
When you are at risk:
- You are at risk when a restaurant serves contaminated food to a number of people.
- You are also at risk as bacterial gastro is easily spread from one person to another. This transferral happens through simply touching another person if that one person has it on their hands.
- Another way of contamination is if you are infected and touch a surface, another person who touches the same surface is at risk of infection – it’s as easy as that to get infected and spread it! Bet you aren’t looking at public bathrooms in the same light anymore are you?
Symptoms of bacterial gastro
Your symptoms may vary depending on the bacteria causing your infection, as listed above. Your symptoms can include:
- Feeling nauseous which leads to vomiting.
- Suffering from watery stool and diarrhoea.
- Having a fever over 39℃ (102.2℉).
- Having blood in your stool.
- Stomach cramps and pains in the abdominal area.
- Suffering from a loss of appetite.
How long will my bacterial gastro last?
Bacterial gastro shouldn’t last more than five days in adults and two days in children.
Are there are complications for bacterial gastro?
When to call your doctor
If your symptoms do not improve after five days, you should call your doctor. If your infant is younger than three months old and is vomiting or has diarrhoea continuously for an extended period, then you will need to call your doctor. If you know you have a weak immune system, speak to your doctor about possible infection and prevention.
If you experience some more severe symptoms, listed below, then you will need to seek immediate medical assistance. However, this is not to say that every case of bacterial gastro will suffer from these, most patients have a swift recovery after a few days of infection with no long-term side effects.
Serious symptoms include:
- High fever
- No control over bowel movements
- Muscle pain
- Blood in the stool
How will my doctor diagnose bacterial gastro?
Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and do a physical check – be prepared to answer these questions. He may also want to examine a sample of your stool if need be, this will help to determine the bacteria causing the infection.
A blood test may also be conducted to test for dehydration.
What will be the treatment for bacterial gastro?
Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to kill off the bacterial infection. However, these are not often prescribed and are only used for the most severe cases. If you are at risk of severe dehydration, you may be hospitalised and connected to a drip to put fluid back into your system intravenously.
Often, your doctor will tell you to possibly take a few days off work to save you from potentially embarrassing runs to the toilet and most importantly, to not infect other people. Your doctor may also tell you to follow the list of home remedies below.
Are there home remedies for bacterial gastro?
- Drink fluids throughout the day, try sucking on ice if you are feeling too nauseated to drink anything.
- It is also possible to get over-the-counter rehydrate solutions, but it is always best to speak to your doctor about what products to use.
- Drink liquids and eat foods with potassium, such as bananas. Potassium is a natural electrolyte which aids in normal muscle function and helps to balance the water in cells and body fluids.
- Try and include foods with sodium – this helps to maintain blood pressure and hold water.
- Ginger can help to aid in stomach cramps. Slice up some fresh ginger and put it in a cup with hot water, almost like a ginger tea.
- Avoid dairy and high-fibre foods that could make your diarrhoea worse.
Can I prevent bacterial gastro?
Try and stick to a hygienic regime, if you have children, get them to follow one too:
- Always wash your hands before and after handling food, as well as after going to the toilet.
- If you are infected, don’t prepare food for other people.
- Once your symptoms have stopped, don’t go to work for another 48 hours as you may still be infectious.
- Use separate utensils and cutting boards for fruits and vegetables and raw meat (don’t mix raw vegetables with raw meat).
- Always wash your vegetables before preparing a meal.
- Try to avoid unpasteurised milk, raw shellfish such as oysters, and raw meat.
- Keep your kitchen clean and sanitised.
- Drink bottled water when travelling overseas or to other countries.