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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is enteritis and what causes it?

Enteritis is inflammation of the small intestine. The following may cause enteritis:

  • Eating foods or drinking liquids contaminated with a virus, bacteria, or parasites
  • Medicines such as antibiotics or anticancer drugs
  • Damage from radiation therapy to the pelvic area (radiation enteritis)
  • Medical conditions such as Crohn disease or celiac disease

What are the signs and symptoms of enteritis?

  • Diarrhea
  • Blood or mucus in your bowel movements
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain

How is enteritis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your medical conditions, medicines, or recent treatments. The provider will ask about your symptoms and when they started. Tell your provider if you if you have traveled to a foreign country recently. You may also need a blood or bowel movement sample tested for the germ causing your enteritis.

How is enteritis treated and managed?

Treatment for enteritis depends on the cause. Enteritis may get better on its own, or you may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to fight an infection caused by bacteria or a parasite. You may also need medicines to slow or stop your diarrhea or vomiting. Do not take these medicines unless your healthcare provider say it is okay. Other medicines may be needed to treat medical conditions that are causing enteritis.
  • Eat foods that help to decrease symptoms. Limit or avoid foods and liquids that are high in sugar, fat, and fiber to help relieve diarrhea. It may be helpful to avoid lactose. Lactose is a type of sugar that is found in milk products. You may be able to tolerate soups, broths, well-cooked vegetables, canned fruit, and baked or broiled meats. Ask your dietitian or healthcare provider if you should follow a special diet. You may need to avoid other foods if you have certain medical conditions such as celiac disease.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. It is important to prevent or treat dehydration. Even if you have been vomiting, suck on ice chips or take small sips of clear liquids often. Slowly increase the amount of clear liquids you drink. If you become dehydrated, you may need IV liquids.
  • Drink an oral rehydration solution (ORS) as directed. An ORS contains water, salts, and sugar that are needed to replace lost body fluids. Ask what kind of ORS to use, how much to drink, and where to get it.

How can I help prevent enteritis?

Enteritis that is caused by bacteria, parasites, or viruses can be prevented. The following may help to prevent this type of enteritis:

  • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a child's diapers, or sneeze. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food.
  • Clean surfaces and do laundry often. Wash your clothes and towels separately from the rest of the laundry. Clean surfaces in your home with antibacterial cleaner or bleach.
  • Clean food thoroughly and cook safely. Wash raw vegetables before you cook. Cook meat, fish, and eggs fully. Do not use the same dishes for raw meat as you do for other foods. Refrigerate any leftover food immediately.
  • Be aware when you camp or travel. Drink only clean water. Do not drink from rivers or lakes unless you purify or boil the water first. When you travel, drink bottled water and do not add ice. Do not eat fruit that has not been peeled. Do not eat raw fish or meat that is not fully cooked.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You cannot stop vomiting.
  • You have not urinated for 12 hours.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever over 101.5.
  • You have blood or mucus in your bowel movements.
  • You continue to vomit or have diarrhea for more than 3 days, even after treatment.
  • You have a dry mouth and eyes, you are urinating less than usual, and you feel dizzy when you stand up.
  • Your mouth or eyes are dry. You are not urinating as much or as often.
  • You are losing weight without trying.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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