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Drug-Related Gastroenteritis and Chemical-Related Gastroenteritis

By Thomas G. Boyce, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Consultant in Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine

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Many drugs cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea as adverse effects. A detailed drug history must be obtained. In mild cases, cessation followed by reuse of the drug may establish a causal relationship. Commonly responsible drugs include antacids containing magnesium, antibiotics, antihelminthics, cytotoxics (used in cancer therapy), colchicine, digoxin, heavy metals, laxatives, and radiation therapy. Use of antibiotics may lead to Clostridium difficile–induced diarrhea.

Iatrogenic, accidental, or intentional heavy-metal poisoning frequently causes nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Laxative abuse, sometimes denied by patients, may lead to weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, electrolyte depletion, and metabolic disturbances.

Various plants and mushrooms cause a syndrome of gastroenteritis.

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