Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu)

Symptoms

The primary symptoms of viral gastroenteritis, also called stomach flu, include watery stool and vomiting. Other symptoms, including headache, fever, chills, and abdominal pain, can be present in those affected by this virus.

These symptoms typically appear within 12 to 48 hours after being exposed to a virus that causes gastroenteritis, and these symptoms can last for one to three days.

Causes

Viral gastroenteritis is caused by one of several viruses and is transmitted from person to person. One well-known virus known to cause gastroenteritis is the norovirus. Those with the virus are more likely to contaminate others if they do not wash their hands properly.

You may become infected with the virus by

  • Touching contaminated surfaces or objects
  • Sharing food, drink, or eating utensils with someone who has the virus
  • Eating foods that are contaminated with the virus
  • Coming into contact with airborne particles that contain the virus

Do you have viral gastroenteritis?

The symptoms associated with the virus are typically what lead to a diagnosis. However, if you experience severe symptoms or symptoms that last for more than a few days, you may consider seeing a health care professional.

Treatment of viral gastroenteritis

Symptoms typically resolve over time without specific treatment.

Some steps to relieve symptoms include:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids that restore electrolytes
  • Eating bland foods that are easy to digest like bananas, rice, or toast
  • Avoiding fatty foods, dairy products, caffeine, and alcohol
  • Drinking small amounts of clear liquids or chewing ice chips if vomiting is an issue
Last reviewed: 
February 2018
Alternative Names: 
Stomach flu

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