Intestinal infections, which are sometimes referred to as the "stomach flu," can wreak havoc on the body and cause people to experience painful and debilitating symptoms. Fortunately, these illnesses can usually be prevented or treated with changes in personal behavior and prompt medical care.
Intestinal infections might cause people to develop symptoms including nausea, vomiting, tiredness, abdominal pain and foul smelling diarrhea. Weight loss may occur if the infection lasts for more than a few days.
Doctors diagnose intestinal infections by having the patient collect a stool specimen, which is sent to a laboratory to look for parasites, bacteria and viruses; the patient's report of symptoms and onset can also help to identify the infection.
People may develop intestinal infections after eating food or beverages contaminated with certain viruses, bacteria or parasites, including worms. Intestinal infections can also develop as a result of blockages in the intestine.
Intestinal infections may cause people to miss time from work or school, and children with these infections might not be allowed to attend daycare until the condition has resolved.
Children are at a higher risk of developing life threatening complications from intestinal infections, and require prompt medical care and observation at home until the infection goes away.
Making sure that foods are cooked to the recommended temperature; avoiding swimming in contaminated water; and careful hand washing can help to prevent catching and spreading intestinal infections.