Viral gastroenteritis is an infection of the intestines and stomach.
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It is caused by one of many viruses. The virus can spread easily through fluids of the mouth and nose. It is passed to surfaces and objects where it can live for hours. People touch the surface with the virus then touch their mouth, nose, or eyes. This is the easiest way for the virus to spread. The virus may also be spread through food or water that has the virus. Some common viruses include:
Children and older adults are more likely to get this infection. It can spread easily in:
The symptoms begin 1 to 2 days after you have contact with the virus. They usually last 1 to 2 days.
Symptoms may include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam may be done. The doctor will suspect a virus based in symptoms.
The stool may need to be tested if the illness is severe or not passing. It will help to find the exact cause of the infection.
Antibiotics are not helpful against a virus. The infection will pass on its own. There are steps to help you feel more comfortable. It is also important to prevent dehydration.
Most gastroenteritis will only need home care. However, call your doctor if you:
Call your doctor if your child:
To help reduce your chances of viral gastroenteritis:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Norovirus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus. Updated October 5, 2018. Accessed December 12, 2018.
Norovirus infection. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114466/Norovirus-infection . Updated July 31, 2017. Accessed December 12, 2018.
Rotavirus gastroenteritis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114180/Rotavirus-gastroenteritis . Updated September 26, 2018. Accessed December 12, 2018.
Viral gastroenteritis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/viral-gastroenteritis. Updated May 2018. Accessed December 12, 2018.
Last reviewed November 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcie L. Sidman, MD
Last Updated: 12/12/2018