What Are the Treatments for an Intestinal Infection?

An infection of the intestines can occur when a bacteria, virus or parasite enter the tissues. Symptoms of these infections are often similar and include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramping and sometimes a fever. Other symptoms can occur but are specific to the infection, such as blood in the stools with a bacterial infection or the passing of worms with a parasitic infection. Treatment of the intestinal infection will depend on the infectious agent.

Nurse adjusting an IV drip (Image: ERproductions Ltd/Blend Images/Getty Images)

Bacterial Infection Treatment

A bacterial infection of the intestines can be caused by several strains of infectious agents, including E. coli, salmonella and shigella. These bacterium are typically introduced to the body when contaminated food is consumed. The National Institutes of Health explains that antibiotics are only prescribed when diarrhea is severe. Unless this is the case, an individual will only be advised to avoid solid foods until the diarrhea has passed and to drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration is a potential complication of this type of infection and can require intravenous fluids in extreme cases.

Viral Infection Treatment

Viral intestinal infections, or viral gastroenteritis, are also caused by ingesting contaminated food or water. According to the Mayo Clinic, contact with an infected person can also help spread the virus. Some of the most common viruses responsible for gastroenteritis include rotavirus and norovirus. A specific treatment does not exist for viral intestinal infection. Patients will be advised to eat a bland diet of foods like bananas, rice, apple sauce and toast. These foods should only be introduced after the infection symptoms have stopped. Fluids and rest are important in recovering from such an infection.

Parasitic Infection Treatment

A parasitic infection of the intestines is caused by an organism, such as a worm, that infests the body and reproduces. Pinworms and tape worms are just two types of parasitic infection. In addition to typical symptoms of intestinal infection, a parasite can cause anal itching, trouble sleeping, weight loss and the passing of the worms in the stool, according to the Mayo Clinic. Treatment consists of taking specific prescription medications that kill the parasites. Typically, these medications target the adult parasite, meaning the patient must continue taking medicine until a monthly stool sample is parasite free. Examples of such medications include albendazole, praziquantal and mebendazole. An entire household is often treated to prevent reinfection, even if all members do not show symptoms of an infection.

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