Enteritis is inflammation of the small intestine.
Enteritis is usually caused by eating or drinking substances that are contaminated with bacteria or viruses. The germs settle in the small intestine and cause inflammation and swelling, which may lead to abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration.
Enteritis may also be caused by:
Risk factors include recent family illness with intestinal symptoms, recent travel, or exposure to untreated or contaminated water.
Types of enteritis include:
The symptoms may begin hours to days after you become infected. Symptoms may include:
A stool culture may be done to determine the specific type of infection, however, this test may not always identify the bacteria causing the illness.
Mild cases usually need no treatment.
Antidiarrheal medication may delay the organism from leaving the digestive tract, and therefore may not be recommended.
Rehydration with electrolyte solutions may be necessary if dehydration occurs.
Persons with diarrhea (especially young children) who are unable to drink fluids because of nausea may need medical care and fluids through a vein ( intravenous fluids) .
If you take diuretics and develop diarrhea, you may need to stop taking the diuretic during the acute episode. Do not stop taking any medicine unless told to do so by your health care provider.
Symptoms usually go away without treatment in a few days.
Note: The diarrhea can cause rapid and extreme dehydration in babies.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:
DuPont HL. Approach to the patient with suspected enteric infection. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 305.
Steiner TS, Guerrant RL. Principles and syndromes of enteric infection. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 93.
Craig SA, Zich DK. Gastroenteritis. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 92.