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The mainstay of home treatment of gastroenteritis is hydration.  Dehydration will make the symptoms of nausea and vomiting worse and compound symptoms.

Clear fluids should be consumed for the first 24 hours, then gradually progress the diet as tolerated.  Clear fluids are anything you can see through.  Popsicles and jell-o work well, since they are ingested slowly.  Drinking too much fluid too quickly will distend the stomach and worsen the nausea.

Dehydration in children

For dehydration in children, they should be given oral re-hydration solutions such as Pedialyte, Rehydrate, Resol, and Rice-Lyte.  They contain a good balance of electrolytes that allow better absorption in the stomach than water alone.  As well, re-hydration with plain water can affect the sodium concentration in the body and lead to seizures.

  • After each loose stool, children younger than two years should be given 1-3 ounces of any of the re-hydration solutions.  Older children should be asked to drink 3-8 ounces.  Adults should drink as much as possible.
  • This guideline serves only to replace fluid loss due to diarrhea.  Drink additional fluid equal to the amount the patient normally drink.
  • In underdeveloped nations or regions without available commercial pediatric drinks, the World Health Organization has established a field recipe for fluid re-hydration:
    • Mix 2 tablespoons of sugar (or honey) with teaspoon of table salt and teaspoon of baking soda.  (Baking soda may be substituted with teaspoon of table salt.) Mix mixture in 1 liter (1 qt) of clean or previously boiled water.
  • After 24 hours, begin to offer bland foods with the BRAT diet - bananas, rice, and applesauce without sugar, toast, pasta, or potatoes.

Dehydration in adults

Although adults and adolescents have a larger electrolyte reserve than children, electrolyte imbalance and dehydration may still occur as fluid is lost through vomiting and diarrhea.  Severe symptoms and dehydration usually develop as complications of medication use or chronic diseases such as diabetes or kidney failure, however, symptoms may occur in healthy people.

  • Clear fluids are appropriate for the first 24 hours to maintain adequate hydration.
  • After 24 hours of fluid diet without vomiting, begin a soft-bland solid diet such as the BRAT diet.

Medical Treatment

Upon seeking medical attention, if the patient cannot take fluids by mouth because of vomiting, the doctor may insert an IV to put fluid back into the body (re-hydration).

In infants, depending upon the level of dehydration, intravenous fluids may be delayed to consider trying oral re-hydration therapy.  Frequent feedings, as small as a 1/6 ounce (5cc) at a time, may be used to restore hydration.

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