How can you protect yourself from bacterial infections of the stomach?

How can you protect yourself from bacterial infections of the stomach?
November 26 09:22 2020 Print This Article

The digestive canal is vulnerable to infection and disease caused by microorganisms like bacteria and others. This creates a wide range of conditions, collectively called Gastroenteritis, with severe complications if left untreated. While effective cure is available most of the time, it’s also good to take steps to prevent an infection in the first place.

Risk Factors

Gastroenteritis or ‘stomach flu’ is fairly common in India and several nations of the developing world. Environmental factors coupled with poor personal hygiene are the most common causes. These become sources of infection. Further bacterial infections can be easily spread from person to person. So in all, risk factors include:

  1. Poor personal hygiene: Not washing hands after use of the toilet, not bathing frequently
  2. Raw or undercooked meat; poultry, eggs and dairy products which are stored in unhygienic conditions.
  3. Consuming raw or cooked food that is left outside in unhygienic surroundings
  4. Consuming street food cooked or stored in unhygienic surroundings
  5. Consuming contaminated food or water
  6. Sharing clothes, food or utensils with others who could be ill
  7. Contamination of drinking water lines with sewage lines
  8. Food or water that is in close contact with human or animal waste
  9. Close contact with pet or stray animals
  10. Getting wet or clothes getting soiled during monsoons
  11. Travel: Travel to unhygienic and excessively crowded places causing what is known as ‘traveller’s diarrhoea’
  12. Exposure to bacterial outbreaks by staying in the vicinity, or by travel to such areas
  13. Changing diapers or soiled clothes of babies and not washing hands afterwards

Underlying causes: Bacteria

  • Yersinia enterocolitica, found in pork
  • Campylobacter, which is found in poultry and meat
  • Escherichia coli, which is found in salads and ground beef
  • Staphylococcus aureus, which is found in dairy products like meat and eggs
  • Salmonella, which is found in meat, eggs, and dairy products
  • Shigella, found in water (especially swimming pools)
  • Helicobacter pylori, which is found in contaminated food and water, and direct contact with saliva, vomit or fecal matter from infected people
  • Clostridium difficile, which is found in processed meats, packaged foods, human and animal faeces, in the air, soil and water around us
  • Giardia lamblia (less common; found in children)
  • Entamoeba histolytica (less common; found in children)
  • Cryptosporidium (less common; found in children)

The last three are not bacteria.

Certain viruses can also call intestinal infections, especially in children

Symptoms

Gastroenteritis is the umbrella term with a wide range of symptoms but each type of bacteria causes its own unique symptoms. A person suffering from bacterial infection of the stomach could experience one or more of these:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever or chills
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Blood in the stools
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal cramps or pains
  • Vomiting or nausea

Complications

Acute gastroenteritis can cause severe dehydration which can cause a number of complications including kidney failure and death

If gastroenteritis is left untreated for days, it can cause complications such as:

  • Reactive arthritis
  • Gullain Barre syndrome
  • Bleeding in the intestines
  • Anaemia
  • Haemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) which can lead to kidney failure
  • Brain damage
  • Death

Also Read:  Know the Signs of Kidney Failure


Diagnosis and Treatment

The Gastroenterology division of your local hospital may conduct several tests to identify the organism or other common or unusual causes or its complications.

The best part about Gastroenteritis is that it’s completely curable when diagnosed and treated in time. Treatment includes oral medication and electrolytes to restore the salt and fluid balance. Only in severe cases of infection, antibiotics and IV fluids may be advised.

The doctor will recommend a diet which is slightly salty, such as Idly, dosa without oil and Pongal. Fruit juices, soups and tender coconut water will be advised in order to restore the fluid balance. You will be asked to restrict fried, oily foods, packaged snacks, chocolates, sweets, coffee and tea, as well as alcoholic drinks. Meat and poultry will also be restricted from your diet till you have recovered fully, to prevent new infections.

Do not share your clothes or utensils with friends and family and wash them frequently.

Prevention

As some of the best gastroenterologists will tell you, preventing an outbreak of stomach infection is quite easy and must be followed as a matter of routine.

  • Wash your hands with soap or a disinfectant like Dettol every time you use the washroom.
  • Before touching food and after touching animals, wash your hands with soap.
  • Avoid contact with friends, family or co-workers who are ill.
  • Contaminated surfaces such as toilet bowls and wash basins must be frequently washed with a disinfectant.
  • Soiled clothes must be washed at the earliest, especially if the person has got drenched in rain or rain water.
  • If you get drenched with rain or muddy water, take a bath when you get home. Leave your footwear outside the home when you enter.
  • Avoid eating street food as much as possible, especially if it’s cold or at ambient temperature.
  • Avoid restaurants and eateries which appear unhygienic.
  • Do not eat food that is kept out in the open.
  • Avoid consuming water from a new source unless you are sure it is clean.
  • Keep your kitchen clean always.
  • Store raw or cooked food, raw meat, fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator. Store fried or processed snacks in closed containers or sachets.
  • Do not share soiled utensils with friends or family.
  • While travelling, drink bottled water only, or water from home.
  • Drinking water at home should be treated with UV or RO treatments.
  • Wash the cutting board every time you use it.
  • Do not consume cut fruits or salads from roadside stalls.

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