Viral gastroenteritis is caused by one of several viruses that assault the intestines. The viruses are usually spread through contact with someone who is infected or with something an infected person touched. Viral gastroenteritis also can spread through food or water that is contaminated.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may also order a stool culture. This test looks for bacteria in a stool sample, which would indicate a different type of illness.
There is no specific medical treatment for viral gastroenteritis. Antibiotics are not helpful for infections caused by a virus. However, there are a number of things you can do to be more comfortable and avoid dehydration.
Fluids—It is important to drink fluids to replace those you’ve lost when sick. Take small sips of water, suck on ice chips, or drink clear soda or noncaffeinated sports drinks. Give your child an oral rehydration solution (such as Pedialyte) instead of water.
Diet—Gradually begin to eat bland foods, such as toast, crackers, bananas, rice, chicken, and potatoes. Avoid dairy products, caffeine, fatty foods, and spicy foods until you’re feeling better.
If you’re breast-feeding an infant who is sick, continue to breast-feed. If your baby is bottle-fed, give him or her oral rehydration solution or formula.
Rest—Make sure you get enough rest while you’re sick and when you’re recovering. If your child is sick, make sure he or she gets plenty of rest.
Call your doctor if you:
Can’t keep fluids down for 24 hours
Have bloody diarrhea
Have a fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit
Vomit for more than 2 days
Have signs of dehydration:
Little or no urine
Call your doctor if your child:
Is under 6 months of age
Has a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.8 degrees Celsuis) or higher
Seems tired or irritable
Has bloody diarrhea
Has stomach pain
Has signs of dehydration:
Dry lips and mouth
No tears when crying
Not urinating very much (for example, no wet diaper in 3 hours)
Feeling thirsty but vomiting after drinking fluids
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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