Enteritis is inflammation of the small intestine.


Enteritis is usually caused by eating or drinking substances contaminated with bacteria or viruses. The germs settle in the small intestine and causes inflammation and swelling which may lead to abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration.

Enteritis may also be a result of:

  • An autoimmune condition, such as Crohn's disease
  • Certain drugs, including ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and cocaine

The inflammation frequently also involves the stomach (gastritis) and large intestine (colitis

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 soon after infection, or there can be a delay of several days.

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea - acute and severe
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting - rare

Exams and Tests

A stool culture may be done to determine the specific type of infection. A stool sample may reveal specific toxins. An upper endoscopy is sometimes needed.


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 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 your doctor tells you to.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The illness usually runs its course without treatment in a few days.

Possible Complications

  • Dehydration
  • Prolonged diarrhea

Note: The diarrhea can cause rapid and extreme dehydration in babies.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if diarrhea does not go away in 3 - 4 days or there is blood in the stools.

Call your health care provider if dehydration or other new symptoms develop.


  • Always wash hands after using the toilet and before eating or preparing food or drink. You may also clean your hands with a 60% alcohol based product.
  • Avoid drinking from unknown sources, such as streams and outdoor wells, without boiling the water first.
  • Use only clean utensils for eating or handling foods, especially when handling eggs and poultry.
  • Cook food completely and properly.
  • Store food appropriately in coolers.
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