Gastroenteritis (cont.)

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What is the treatment for gastroenteritis?

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Although most people with gastroenteritis require no formal treatment, the key to a more rapid and safe recovery is good hydration. Home treatment consists of adequate fluid intake so that dehydration is prevented. Avoid oral fluids that contain caffeine or alcohol as the may further dehydrate the affected individual. The recommended fluids are clear fluids (Pedialyte, especially for young children, Gatorade, Powerade, and other similar drinks) but not fruit juices or milk. The exception to giving milk is in infants who are breastfeeding; breastfeeding should continue throughout the illness. If dehydration occurs, the affected individual should be evaluated by a health-care professional, who is likely to begin IV rehydration, the treatment of choice for rapid rehydration.

Medications may be prescribed to reduce the symptoms of gastroenteritis, for example, promethazine (Phenergan), prochlorperazine (Compazine) or ondansetron (Zofran) may be prescribed to reduce vomiting. Some physicians suggest using these only as a suppository (or IV) since patients frequently just vomit the pills up. Others may prescribe diphenoxylate and atropine (Lomotil) or loperamide (Imodium) to slow diarrhea. Many doctors simply suggest no treatment for gastroenteritis symptoms as all of the drugs have side effects, and the doctors figure that if the patient stays well hydrated, the symptoms will soon resolve.

Once the gastroenteritis symptoms abate, especially vomiting, some doctors recommend a BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apples and toast) for a day or two before beginning a regular diet.

Individuals that have more serious or other symptoms in addition to gastroenteritis need to be evaluated, diagnosed, and treated by a physician because the patient will likely have a specific disease that will need treatment. The treatment will depend on the cause of the illness, (for example, salmonellosis or Clostridium difficile). Administration of antibiotics and other treatments may be contraindicated for some of these diseases, so an accurate diagnosis is important. For Clostridium difficile infected patients, antibiotic sensitivity testing may need to be ordered to determine the most effective antibiotics to use since many strains are resistant to these drugs.

There are two vaccines currently approved for Rotavirus; the CDC recommends all infants be vaccinated against the virus. Although rare instances of intussusception may be associated with the vaccine, the CDC states that vaccine benefits far outweigh any risks. There is no vaccine available for Norovirus strains.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/2/2014

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