Gastroenteritis refers to an infection of the intestinal tract. Most commonly, the cause of  the infection is a virus, such as rotavirus, norovirus, enteric adenovirus, or astrovirus.

How do the viruses that cause gastroenteritis spread?

Gastrointestinal viruses are spread via:

  • The fecal-oral route (not washing hands thoroughly after using the bathroom)
  • Person to person transmission
  • Contaminated surfaces
What are symptoms of gastroenteritis?

The most common symptoms of gastroenteritis include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Achiness
  • Fever
  • Headache

Symptoms will arise 12 to 72 hours after exposure to most gastrointestinal viruses. The exact incubation period varies according to the specific virus. Most people will feel ill for 24 to 60 hours. Again, this varies according to the virus.

What should I do if I have symptoms of gastroenteritis?
  • For vomiting and diarrhea associated with gastroenteritis, it’s going to be important to replace lost fluids. Oral hydration is usually sufficient, if you can keep fluids down. Start with clear liquids, such as water, clear sodas, Gatorade, ice chips, etc. As you are able to keep fluids down, gradually increase intake, starting with crackers or toast. Generally, you won’t feel like eating normally for a few days. Don’t force yourself to eat - wait until nausea subsides.
  • For diarrhea, follow the BRAT diet, (bananas, rice, applesauce, apple juice, toast). Avoid dairy, fats, and greasy foods.
  • You can try Pepto-Bismol or loperamide (Imodium) with liquids to try to slow down diarrhea.

What symptoms of gastroenteritis should I seek medical attention for?
  • You cannot stop vomiting
  • You can’t keep any fluids down
  • Your symptoms last more than 3 days
  • You have bloody diarrhea
  • You have severe abdominal pain