Good hygiene and habits are an important part of your ongoing health. So many microorganisms and bacteria are found all around that being careless in handling stuff can land you in a hospital, or worse. So many diseases out there today are due to bacteria getting in on your system through poor hygiene or contamination.
Among the most common of these infectious diseases due to poor sanitation and hygiene is dysentery.
Dysentery is an infection of your intestines that results in severe diarrhea containing blood and pus or mucus. Most of the time, it is contracted by eating contaminated food and is usually the result of unsanitary environment. Due to this, dysentery is more commonly found in poorer, third-world countries where sanitation and hygiene are not as developed as most countries. Although the infection is relatively easy to cure, it can be fatal, especially among children.
There are two major types of dysentery, classified by the type of micro-organisms that cause them. The first is amoebic dysentery, caused by amoebas, and the second is bacillary dysentery caused by any of the three specific bacterial groups. Dysentery can also be caused by certain medications, although these are not as common. For example, there are some steroids that can have an adverse impact on your bowel movements.
Dysentery is a notifiable disease; if you have dysentery, your doctor is required to tell the local authority about it. The reason for this is that dysentery is an infectious disease and an outbreak may be possible if it is not stemmed at the beginning. The authorities will identify the cause of your dysentery (environmental, local), how you got it, and then try to find ways to stop it from infecting other people.
Dysentery Types and Symptoms
There are two main types of dysentery: amoebic dysentery and bacillary dysentery.
Amoebic dysentery is caused by the amoeba Entamoeba histolytica. It is also known as amoebiasis although strictly speaking, amoebiasis is a generic term that can also be applied to mild diarrhea caused by amoeba. Since the amoeba is mainly found in tropical areas, cases in the States and Europe are not as common. Most cases of amoebic dysentery are found in developing countries although people who live in developed nations can get them usually during their travels abroad, hence the other name “traveler’s dysentery” and “Montezuma’s revenge”.
The amoeba enters the body through contaminated food and drinks and then multiplies in the intestines and the bowels. It can also exist as a cyst (essentially, a group of amoebias encased by a protective wall). When they’re in this condition, they are especially troublesome since they are better protected from the stomach’s acid.
Bacillary dysentery has three types, commonly caused by any of the three bacteria groups:
- Shigellosis, which is caused by a type of the Shigella bacteria
- Campylobacteriosis, which is caused by any of the Campylobacter bacteria
- Salmonellosis, which is caused by the Salmonella enterica bacteria
Depending on what kind of dysentery you have, when you’ll show the symptoms vary. For amoebic dysentery, you may not show any symptoms for months, or even years, although you will still be a carrier of the amoeba and spread it to others. Bacillary dysentery usually starts within one to three days of having been infected. As for the actual symptoms themselves, diarrhea is a given, although the stool will contain either blood or pus. Feelings of sickness and abdominal pain is also common, with occasional fever sprinkled in.
Getting Rid of Dysentery
Diarrhea is primarily the most dangerous part of having dysentery since you will be losing a lot of fluids, leading to dehydration. Manage diarrhea first, then get rid of the organisms that cause the infection.
Here are things you can do to get rid of dysentery:
- Rehydrate yourself. Drink lots of fluids, since you’ll be excreting a lot of them as you’re having diarrhea. It is not the diarrhea that you must worry about so much as the dehydration that it causes. Dehydration is also the primary reason why dysentery can be serious for a child; they will be losing too much water and electrolytes needed to properly function.You will have to get both water and electrolytes. Since electrolytes can’t be obtained from water, you have to get them somewhere else. Electrolyte levels can be replenished by eating fruits, soups and broths that have sodium and potassium.
- Go to a doctor for checkup and diagnosis. The medicine you need to take will depend on what kind of organism is causing the dysentery. Amoebic dysentery can be treated using metronidazole. For those caused by any of the bacterial dysentery, antibiotics can be used, although most mild cases of bacillary dysentery do not need antibiotic treatments as they are often self-limiting.
- Change your diet. It is a good idea to change your diet during the whole time you are suffering from dysentery. Some food can exacerbate the diarrhea, such as milk and other dairy products, greasy foods, and spicy foods. Lay off these kinds of foods while you’re recuperating.
Prevention is still the best way to get rid of dysentery though. To avoid spreading and getting the infection:
- Regularly wash your hands after using the toilet and after having come in contact with someone who is infected.
- Avoid sharing things such as towels or clothes.
- When washing the laundry of an infected person, wash it on the hottest setting possible. Doing so will kill off the microorganisms responsible for the infection.
- Maintain an overall good hygiene and sanitized area.
- Cook all foods properly and evenly, especially if you’re not sure where the ingredients come from.
- Avoid drinking tap water, especially in foreign places. Avoid ice cubes and foods washed in tap water as well.
Dysentery is a very uncomfortable infection to have. Like other infections, however, it can easily be prevented, and it is oftentimes better to do so than treat it. Maintain proper and clean living and you shouldn’t have to worry about organisms causing havoc in your intestines.
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