Faced with gastro, what to do?
The peak of gastroenteritis infections is generally in winter.
As the United States and Canada deal with an outbreak of norovirus, one of the viruses responsible for gastroenteritis that causes nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, Metro has brought together advice from the government of Quebec to avoid transmission and to heal well in the event of contamination.
Preventing the disease
The pandemic has gotten us used to it, but the most important thing to do against the transmission of gastros is to wash your hands very regularly. Good times to wash your hands are before, during and after preparing meals, before eating, after changing a child’s diaper, before feeding or breastfeeding a child, and after using the toilet.
It is also important to clean and disinfect the toilet seat, or any other surface or object, that may have had contact with stool and vomit.
Another mode of protection against gastro is vaccination against rotavirus – the main virus causing gastro in children under five. The government website states that “children should receive the first dose of the vaccine before the age of 20 weeks and the last before the age of 8 months”.
When you are sick with gastro, you have to drink well to stay hydrated because the body then loses a lot of water and mineral salts. If necessary, commercial rehydration solutions can be used. The Government of Quebec advises solutions like “Gastrolyte, Pedialyte or Pediatric Electrolyte”.
You can also make your own homemade rehydration solution. You will need to mix 360 ml (12 oz) of ready-to-drink unsweetened orange juice, 600 ml (20 oz) of cooled boiled water and 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) of salt. Respecting these quantities is important at the risk of aggravating the condition.
For a child, these solutions can be given every 5 to 15 minutes. For specific instructions for young children, it’s here.
Foods to favor are pasta, rice, lean meats, cooked fish, eggs, fresh fruits, cooked vegetables, unsweetened cereals and bread.
On the contrary, the foods to avoid are mainly fatty or sweet. These are sweet, carbonated or caffeinated drinks, broths or soups in sachets or cans, fried or very fatty foods, ice cream, sorbets, jellies, fruit in syrup, fruit dried foods, sugary cereals, candies, chocolate and very spicy foods.
Modes of transmission
No need to wear a mask in case of gastroenteritis. The infected person can transmit gastro for the duration of the symptoms. These usually last between 24 and 72 hours. The incubation period of the virus is generally similar.
The virus can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, but especially through direct or indirect contact with an infected person. Thus, this includes kissing or shaking hands with that person or touching surfaces and eating food handled by the ill person.
When to consult?
If a child under two years of age contracts gastroenteritis, contact 811. The same should be done for a child whose abdominal pain worsens, fever persists for more than 48 hours, eruptions appear, diarrhea persists for more than seven days, who refuses to drink or who continues to vomit six hours after following the rehydration instructions.
If a child shows signs of dehydration, confusion, dizziness, headache, blood in the stool and vomiting, black stools or greenish vomit, or if the child suffers from a chronic illness or has a weakened immune system, go to the emergency room immediately.
For an adult, if you are unsure if you need to see a doctor or if you have symptoms that persist, you can call 811 for an assessment by a nurse.
If after 48 hours you still have diarrhea – even following the instructions for rehydration -, fever or vomiting, you should see your doctor the same day.
Black stools, blood in the stool and vomiting, diarrhea with severe abdominal pain, severe thirst without having urinated for 12 hours, vomiting that does not decrease after four to six hours or the general decline in condition should lead an adult to go to the emergency room.