Noninfectious Gastroenteritis (Adult)

Illustration of a female silhouette with organs of the digestive tract.Gastroenteritis can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramping in the belly. This may occur from food sensitivity, inflammation of your gastrointestinal tract, medicines, stress, or other causes not related to infection. Your symptoms will usually last from 1 to 3 days, but can last longer. Antibiotics are not effective, but simple home treatment will be helpful.

Home care

Medicine

  • You may use acetaminophen or NSAID medicines like ibuprofen or naproxen to control fever, unless another medicine is prescribed. (Note: If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, or ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinaI bleeding, talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines.) Aspirin should never be used in anyone under 18 years of age who is ill with a fever. It may cause severe liver damage. Don't increase your NSAID medicines if you are already taking these medicines for another condition (like arthritis). Don't use NSAIDS if you are on aspirin (such as for heart disease, or after a stroke).

  • If medicines for diarrhea or vomiting are prescribed, take only as directed.

General care and preventing spread of the illness

  • If symptoms are severe, rest at home for the next 24 hours or until you feel better.

  • Hand washing with soap and water is the best way to prevent the spread of infection. Wash your hands after touching anyone who is sick.

  • Wash your hands after using the toilet and before meals. Clean the toilet after each use.

  • Caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol can make your diarrhea, cramping, and pain worse.

Diet

  • Water and clear liquids are important so you do not get dehydrated. Drink a small amount at a time.

  • Don't force yourself to eat, especially if you have cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea. When you finally decide to start eating, do not eat large amounts at a time, even if you are hungry.

  • If you eat, avoid fatty, greasy, spicy, or fried foods.

  • Don't eat dairy products if you have diarrhea; they can make the diarrhea worse.

During the first 24 hours (the first full day), follow the diet below:

  • Beverages: Water, clear liquids, soft drinks without caffeine, like ginger ale; mineral water (plain or flavored); decaffeinated tea and coffee.

  • Soups: Clear broth, consommé, and bouillon sports drinks aren't a good choice because they have too much sugar and not enough electrolytes. In this case, commercially available products called oral rehydration solutions are best.

  • Desserts: Plain gelatin, ice pops, and fruit juice bars

During the next 24 hours (the second day), you may add the following to the above if you have improved. If not, continue what you did the first day:

  • Hot cereal, plain toast, bread, rolls, crackers

  • Plain noodles, rice, mashed potatoes, chicken noodle or rice soup

  • Unsweetened canned fruit and bananas (don't eat pineapple or citrus)

  • Limit caffeine and chocolate. No spices or seasonings except salt.

During the next 24 hours

  • Gradually resume a normal diet, as you feel better and your symptoms improve.

  • If at any time your symptoms start getting worse, go back to clear liquids until you feel better.

Food preparation

  • If you have diarrhea, you should not prepare food for others. When you  prepare food for yourself, wash your hands before and after.

  • Wash your hands after using cutting boards, countertops, and knives that have been in contact with raw food.

  • Keep uncooked meats away from cooked and ready-to-eat foods.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider if you are not improving over the next 2 to 3 days, or as advised. If a stool (diarrhea) sample was taken, call for the results as directed.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Chest pain

  • Confusion

  • Severe drowsiness or trouble awakening

  • Seizure

  • Stiff neck

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur: 

  • Increasing belly pain or constant lower right belly pain

  • Continued vomiting (unable to keep liquids down)

  • Frequent diarrhea (more than 5 times a day)

  • Blood in vomit or stool (black or red color)

  • Inability to tolerate solid food after a few days.

  • Dark urine, reduced urine output

  • Weakness, dizziness

  • Drowsiness

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38.0ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • New rash

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