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Bacterial Gastroenteritis Signs and Symptoms: What To Watch Out For

Bacterial Gastroenteritis Signs and Symptoms: What To Watch Out For

Gastroenteritis is a common condition that involves the inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections can cause gastroenteritis. The prevalence of bacterial gastroenteritis is lower than that of viral gastroenteritis. Nevertheless, bacterial gastroenteritis poses a serious health risk due to its symptoms, which include vomiting and diarrhea, which may lead to dehydration. Learn more about bacterial gastroenteritis signs and symptoms here.

Bacterial Gastroenteritis Signs and Symptoms: Causes of Bacterial Gastroenteritis

The following bacteria types usually cause bacterial gastroenteritis:

  • Campylobacter jejuni – Usually found in raw poultry or cattle.
  • Shigella – usually found in raw shrimps, tuna, and vegetables.
  • E coli – Is usually found in uncooked meat, particularly beef. This bacteria is also common in sprouts, spinach, and lettuce that were not cleaned properly.
  • Staphylococcus – May be found in sliced meats and sandwiches that were not properly handled or stored.
  • Salmonella – Commonly found in raw eggs but may also be found in beef, pork and poultry. It is also common in processed foods like nut butter and chicken nuggets.
  • Yersinia – Mostly found in meat and raw milk. It is also commonly found in seafood such as oysters, crabs, and fish.

You may pick up bacteria from the following sources:

Contaminated Food and Water

Contaminated food or water is the primary cause of bacterial gastroenteritis. If an individual does not handle or store food correctly, bacteria may develop and eventually cause bacterial gastroenteritis.

On the other hand, water can get contaminated for various reasons, but it is primarily due to fecal bacteria contaminating the water source.

Cross Contamination

Another possible cause of bacterial gastroenteritis is cross-contamination. When someone has bacterial gastroenteritis, they have harmful bacteria in their stool.

Those who don’t effectively wash their hands after using the bathroom can spread germs when they touch objects. Touching the same items can lead to picking up germs on your hands and transferring them to your mouth.

Mass Gatherings

Groups of people may acquire by bacterial gastroenteritis if they consumed the same food or drank from the same water source. Picnics, eating in a school cafeteria, large social gatherings, or meals at restaurants are common sources of bacterial gastroenteritis.

Bacterial Gastroenteritis Signs and Symptoms

Different kinds of bacteria can cause gastroenteritis. And, depending on the bacteria, symptoms can vary. Bacterial gastroenteritis signs and symptoms can manifest quickly in some cases. Other times, they do not appear for days or even weeks.

Diarrhea occurs in all cases of food poisoning.

A person may experience mild to severe cases of these symptoms if they have gastroenteritis:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Abdominal pain
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Bloody stools
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

Bacterial Gastroenteritis Signs and Symptoms: Treatment

It is common for bacterial gastroenteritis to resolve without treatment. The majority of cases of bacterial gastroenteritis are treated at home.

A few days may pass before symptoms disappear. Other times, symptoms linger for weeks, and there are cases when regular bowel movement does not return even after a month.

Should you suffer from bacerial gastroenteritis, you may ease symptoms by drinking plenty of fluids and eating the right foods. The following are necessary to recover from bacterial gastroenteritis:

  • Get plenty of sleep Rest is vital for any recovery. Get the recommended amount of sleep which is 7-8 hrs a day. Avoid working if you are experiencing bacterial gastroenteritis signs and symptoms.
  • Manage diarrheal symptoms – Diarrhea can cause dehydration. Make sure not to overeat. Hydrate as much as possible.
  • Keeping nausea and vomiting at bay – Vomiting can cause weakness and dehydration. Try to slowly take in soft, easy-to-digest food, and drink lots of fluids.


Rehydrating the body after diarrhea or vomiting is essential for recovery.

In cases where there is severe dehydration, hospitalization may be required. The hospital may need to administer fluids to you through an IV (intravenous).


Antibiotics will only be prescribed if your symptoms are caused by certain bacteria, if they are severe, or if you have a weak immune system.

Medication depends on the doctor’s assessment and what bacteria may be causing bacterial gastroenteritis signs and symptoms.

Consult your doctor if you are taking diuretics (“water pills”) or ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure. In case of diarrhea, these medicines may need to be stopped. Consult with your provider before modifying or discontinuing your medications.

If you have bloody stool, severe diarrhea, or fever, make sure to consult your doctor before taking any medications.

Key Takeaways

Bacteria found in contaminated food and water is the cause of bacterial gastroenteritis signs and symptoms. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea, but symptoms may vary depending on what kind of bacteria is causing it. To treat bacterial gastroenteritis, you must keep yourself hydrated as much as possible. Medication may help to treat the symptoms but this would depend on your doctor’s recommendation.

Learn about Other Digestive Health Issues here.


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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Bacterial Gastroenteritis, https://www.cedars-sinai.org/health-library/diseases-and-conditions/b/bacterial-gastroenteritis.html, Accessed July 20, 2021

Bacterial gastroenteritis, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000254.htm, Accessed July 20, 2021

Bacterial Gastroenteritis, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/bacterial-gastroenteritis, Accessed July 20, 2021

Bacterial Gastroenteritis, https://www.fairview.org/patient-education/89211, Accessed July 20, 2021

Gastroenteritis In Children, https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/gastroenteritis-in-children-a-to-z, Accessed July 20, 2021

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Written by Hazel Caingcoy Updated a week ago
Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, MD