Viral Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu)

Viral gastroenteritis is an intestinal tract infection marked by watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea or vomiting, and in some cases fever.

The most typical way to develop viral gastroenteritis– typically called stomach flu– is from contact with an infected individual or by ingesting polluted food or water. If you’re otherwise healthy, you’ll likely recover without complications. But for infants, older adults and individuals with compromised body immune systems, viral gastroenteritis can be lethal.

There’s no reliable treatment for viral gastroenteritis, so prevention is essential. In addition to preventing food and water that may be contaminated, thorough and frequent hand-washings are your best defense.

Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu) symptoms

Although it’s typically called stomach flu, gastroenteritis isn’t the like influenza. Real flu (influenza) impacts just your respiratory system– your nose, throat and lungs. Gastroenteritis, on the other hand, attacks your intestinal tracts, causing symptoms and signs, such as:

  • Watery, generally nonbloody diarrhea– bloody diarrhea typically suggests you have a various, more severe infection
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Nausea, vomiting or both
  • Periodic muscle aches or headache
  • Low-grade fever

Depending on the cause, viral gastroenteritis symptoms may appear within one to three days after you’re infected and can vary from mild to severe. Symptoms typically last just a day or two, however occasionally they may persist as long as 10 days.

How Viral Gastroenteritis Is Diagnosed The majority of the time, a physical exam is the basis for diagnosis, specifically if the virus is spreading out from your neighborhood. Your doctor may also buy a stool sample to test for the type of virus or to discover if your health problem is because of a parasitic or bacterial infection.

How Viral Gastroenteritis Is Diagnosed
The majority of the time, a physical exam is the basis for diagnosis, specifically if the virus is spreading out from your neighborhood. Your doctor may also buy a stool sample to test for the type of virus or to discover if your health problem is because of a parasitic or bacterial infection.

Due to the fact that the symptoms are comparable, it’s easy to confuse viral diarrhea with diarrhea caused by bacteria, such as Clostridium difficile, salmonella and E.coli, or parasites, such as giardia.

When to see a doctor

If you’re an adult, call your doctor if:

  • You’re not able to keep liquids down for 24 hours
  • You’ve been vomiting for more than two days
  • You’re vomiting blood
  • You’re dehydrated– signs of dehydration include excessive thirst, dry mouth, deep yellow urine or little or no urine, and severe weakness, dizziness or lightheadedness
  • You notice blood in your defecation
  • You have a fever above 104 F (40 C).

For infants and children

See your doctor immediately if your child:

  • Has a fever of 102 F (38.9 C) or higher.
  • Seems sluggish or extremely irritable.
  • Is in a lot of discomfort or pain.
  • Has bloody diarrhea.

Appears dehydrated– watch for signs of dehydration in ill babies and children by comparing how much they drink and urinate with how much is normal for them.

If you have an infant, bear in mind that while spitting up might be a daily event for your baby, vomiting is not, according Children vomit for a variety of factors, many of which might need medical attention.

Call your baby’s doctor immediately if your baby:

  • Has vomiting that lasts more than numerous hours.
  • Hasn’t had a damp diaper in six hours.
  • Has bloody stools or severe diarrhea.
  • Has a sunken soft spot (fontanel) on the top of his/her head.
  • Has a dry mouth or sobs without tears.
  • Is unusually drowsy, drowsy or unresponsive.


You’re most likely to agreement viral gastroenteritis when you eat or drink polluted food or water, or if you share utensils, towels or food with somebody who’s infected.

A number of viruses can cause gastroenteritis, including:.

  • Noroviruses. Both children and adults are impacted by noroviruses, the most common cause of foodborne illness worldwide. Norovirus infection can sweep from households and communities. It’s specifically most likely to spread out amongst individuals in restricted areas. In many cases, you get the virus from contaminated food or water, although person-to-person transmission also is possible.
  • Rotavirus. Worldwide, this is the most typical cause of viral gastroenteritis in children, who are usually infected when they put their fingers or other things infected with the virus into their mouths. The infection is most severe in infants and little ones. Adults infected with rotavirus may not have symptoms, however can still spread the illness– of specific issue in institutional settings because infected adults unwittingly can pass the virus to others. A vaccine against viral gastroenteritis is offered in some nations, including the United States, and appears to be reliable in avoiding the infection.
  • Some shellfish, especially raw or undercooked oysters, likewise can make you sick. Although polluted drinking water is a cause of viral diarrhea, in many cases the virus is passed through the fecal-oral route– that is, somebody with a virus deals with food you eat without cleaning his/her hands after using the toilet.

Complications: Is It Dangerous?

The primary problem of viral gastroenteritis is dehydration– a severe loss of water and important salts and minerals. If you’re healthy and drink enough to change fluids you lose from vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration shouldn’t be a problem.

Infants, older adults and individuals with reduced body immune systems may end up being significantly dehydrated when they lose more fluids than they can change. Hospitalization might be needed so that lost fluids can be changed intravenously. Dehydration can be deadly, but hardly ever.

Treatments for viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu)

There’s frequently no particular medical treatment for viral gastroenteritis. Antibiotics aren’t effective against viruses, and overusing them can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant stress of bacteria. Treatment at first includes self-care procedures.

Lifestyle and home remedies

To assist keep yourself more comfortable and avoid dehydration while you recover, attempt the following:.

  • Let your stomach settle. Stop eating solid foods for a few hours.
  • Try sucking on ice chips or taking small sips of water. You might also try drinking clear soda, clear broths or noncaffeinated sports beverages. Drink plenty of liquid every day, taking small, frequent sips.
  • Relieve back into eating. Slowly start to eat boring, easy-to-digest foods, such as soda crackers, toast, gelatin, bananas, rice and chicken. Stop eating if your nausea returns.
  • Avoid specific foods and substances until you feel much better. These include milk products, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and fatty or extremely experienced foods.
  • Get lots of rest. The illness and dehydration might have made you weak and exhausted.
  • Beware with medications. Use many medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), moderately if at all. They can make your stomach more upset. Use acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) very carefully; it sometimes can cause liver toxicity, especially in children. Do not give aspirin to children or teenagers because of the risk of Reye’s syndrome, an uncommon, however possibly fatal disease. Prior to selecting a painkiller or fever reducer discuss with your child’s pediatrician.

For infants and children

When your child has a digestive tract infection, the most vital objective is to change lost fluids and salts. These suggestions may help:.

  • Help your child rehydrate. Give your child an oral rehydration solution, readily available at drug stores without a prescription. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about how to use it. Don’t give your child plain water– in children with gastroenteritis, water isn’t really taken in well and won’t adequately change lost electrolytes. Prevent giving your child apple juice for rehydration– it can make diarrhea even worse.
  • Get your child back to a typical diet slowly. Gradually introduce dull, easy-to-digest foods, such as toast, rice, bananas and potatoes.
  • Prevent certain foods. Don’t give your child dairy products or sweet foods, such as ice cream, sodas and candy. These can make diarrhea even worse.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest. The disease and dehydration may have made your child weak and tired.
  • Prevent providing your child over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medications, unless advised by your doctor. They can make it harder for your child’s body to get rid of the virus.

If you have a sick infant, let your baby’s stomach rest for 15 to 20 minutes after vomiting or a bout of diarrhea, then offer percentages of liquid. If you’re breast-feeding, let your baby nurse. If your baby is bottle-fed, provide a small amount of an oral rehydration solution or routine formula. Don’t dilute your baby’s already-prepared formula.



Updated: August 12, 2016 — 11:22 am

The Author

Reyus Mammadli

Healthy lifestyle advisor. Bachelor Degree of Medical Equipment and Electronics.
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