What is gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis is a general term for irritation and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The hallmark symptoms of gastroenteritis are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Gastroenteritis is quite common and can occur in any age group or population.

Gastroenteritis is most frequently caused by a viral infection and is commonly referred to as viral gastroenteritis, the stomach flu, or the 24-hour or 48-hour “bug.” This type of infectious gastroenteritis is contagious.

A bacterial infection, such as Salmonella food poisoning, can cause bacterial gastroenteritis, which is also contagious. Food poisoning is also known as food-borne illness. Every year 48 million Americans suffer from food-borne illnesses.

Similar gastrointestinal symptoms can also result from a variety of other conditions that are not contagious, such as alcohol intoxication or irritable bowel syndrome.

Gastroenteritis can lead to serious complications such as dehydration, especially in infants, young children, the elderly, or people with chronic diseases. The underlying disorder, disease or condition that is causing gastroenteritis can also cause complications.

Seek prompt medical care

if you have symptoms of gastroenteritis that do not improve after a day or two. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, your child, or someone you are with, have symptoms of gastroenteritis accompanied by lethargy, change in alertness, delirium, a seizure, rectal bleeding, or a lack of urination.


What are the symptoms of gastroenteritis?

The symptoms of gastroenteritis can range from mild to severe and may vary depending on the underlying cause. Symptoms of viral gastroenteritis, caused by a viral infection, generally resolve within 24 to 48 hours. Other causes of gastroenteritis can last longer.

Symptoms of gastroenteritis can include:


What causes gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis is most frequently caused by a gastrointestinal viral infection. Similar symptoms can also result from a variety of other conditions including:


How is gastroenteritis treated?

Treatment plans for gastroenteritis are individualized depending on the underlying cause and your age, medical history, and any other conditions you may have. Treatment generally involves a multifaceted plan that addresses the cause; minimizes the discomfort of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; and decreases the risk of dehydr... Read more about gastroenteritistreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System

Did You Know?

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