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Viral Gastroenteritis

Viral gastroenteritis is an intestinal infection that includes signs and symptoms such as watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting, and sometimes fever.

The most common way to develop viral gastroenteritis — often called stomach flu — is through contact with an infected person or by consuming contaminated food or water.

Causes:

There's no effective treatment for viral gastroenteritis, so prevention is key .Gastroenteritis can be spread through:

  • Contact with someone who has the virus
  • Contaminated food or water
  • Unwashed hands after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper

Symptoms

Gastroenteritis attacks your intestines, causing signs and symptoms such as:

  • Watery, usually non-bloody diarrhea — bloody diarrhea usually means you have a different, more severe infection
  • Nausea, vomiting or both
  • Stomach cramps and pain
  • Occasional muscle aches or headache
  • Low-grade fever

Depending on the cause, viral gastroenteritis symptoms may appear within 1-3 days after you're infected and can range from mild to severe. Symptoms usually last just a day or two, but occasionally they may last up to 14 days.

 

When to see a doctor

If you're an adult, see your health care provider if:

  • You're not able to keep liquids down for 24 hours
  • You've been vomiting or having diarrhea 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 bowel movements
  • You have severe stomach pain
  • You have a fever

 

For infants and children

See your child's health care provider right away if your child:

  • Has a fever
  • Seems tired or very irritable
  • Is in a lot of discomfort or pain
  • Has bloody diarrhea
  • Seems dehydrated — watch for signs of dehydration in sick infants and children by comparing how much they drink and urinate with how much is normal for them, and watching for signs such as a dry mouth, thirst and crying without tears

If you have an infant, remember that while spitting up may be an everyday occurrence for your baby, vomiting is not. Babies vomit for a variety of reasons, many of which may require medical attention.

 

See the health care provider right away if your baby:

  • Has vomiting that is frequent
  • Hasn't had a wet diaper in six hours
  • Has bloody stools or severe diarrhea
  • Has a dry mouth or cries without tears
  • Is unusually sleepy, drowsy or unresponsive