What is viral gastroenteritis? — Viral gastroenteritis is an infection that can cause diarrhea and vomiting. It happens when a person’s stomach and intestines get infected with a virus. People can get the infection if they:Touch an infected person or a surface with the virus on it, and then don’t wash their handsEat foods or drink liquids with the virus in them. If people with the virus don’t wash their hands, they can spread it to food or liquids they touch.


What are the symptoms of viral gastroenteritis? — The infection causes diarrhea and vomiting. People can have either diarrhea or vomiting, or both. These symptoms usually start suddenly, and can be severe.

Viral gastroenteritis can also cause:

  • A fever
  • A headache or muscle aches
  • Belly pain or cramping
  • A loss of appetite

If you have diarrhea and vomiting, your body can lose too much water. Doctors call this “dehydration.” Dehydration can make you have dark yellow urine and feel thirsty, tired, dizzy, or confused.

Severe dehydration can be life-threatening. Babies, young children, and elderly people are more likely to get severe dehydration.

Do people with viral gastroenteritis need tests? — Not usually. Their doctor or nurse should be able to tell if they have it by learning about their symptoms and doing an exam.

Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better — Yes. People with viral gastroenteritis need to drink enough fluids so they don’t get dehydrated.  See dietary recommendations that follow.

Do NOT take anti-diarrhea medicines (medicines to stop diarrhea). These medicines can make the infection last longer.

Should I call the doctor or nurse? — Call the doctor or nurse if you:

  • Have any symptoms of dehydration
  • Have diarrhea or vomiting that lasts longer than a few days
  • Vomit up blood, has bloody diarrhea, or has severe belly pain
  • Haven’t needed to urinate in the past 6 to 8 hours (during the day),

How is viral gastroenteritis treated? — Most people do not need any treatment, because their symptoms will get better on their own. But people with severe dehydration might need treatment in the hospital for their dehydration. Doctors do not treat viral gastroenteritis with antibiotics. That’s because antibiotics treat infections that are caused by bacteria – not viruses.

Can viral gastroenteritis be prevented? — Sometimes. To lower the chance of getting or spreading the infection, you can wash your hands with soap after you use the bathroom and before you eat.


Recuperating from Stomach Illness:  Dietary recommendations

First Six Hours

For at least 6 hours after vomiting has stopped, it is best to give your stomach a rest.  Following a period of one or two hours, suck on a hard candy or popsicle.  Then progress to ice chips or sips of water.

First 24 Hours

Gradually add clear liquids a sip of two every ten minutes is a good way to start.  Suggestions are:


Ginger ale/cola that has been stirred to remove some of the carbonation

A 1:1 dilution of sports drink such as Gatorade with water

Tea with honey or sugar

Bouillon or clear broth


Coconut water

Second 24 Hours

Add easily digested foods and juices.  Suggestions are:

Smooth, cooked cereals such as oatmeal


Plain rice or pasta

Non-acidic juice such as apple or white grape

Saltine crackers toast and jelly

Third Day

Progress to a regular diet by adding such foods as soft-cooked eggs, stewed or canned fruits, cooked vegetables and non fatty meats.   Avoid alcohol and caffeinated products because of their dehydrating effects.

Please feel free to call the Health and Wellness Center if you have any questions or concerns.