What is intestinal flu?

Intestinal flu is a viral infection of the gastrointestinal tract. The medical name is viral gastroenteritis, and other common names include stomach flu, or a 24-hour or 48-hour “bug.” It is the second most common illness affecting American families. Intestinal flu involves irritation and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and is not actually a form of flu or influenza.

The hallmark symptoms of intestinal flu are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Similar gastrointestinal symptoms involved with intestinal flu can also result from a variety of other conditions, such as bacterial food poisoning, alcohol intoxication, and irritable bowel syndrome. Intestinal flu is often mistaken for these other conditions and vice versa.

Symptoms of true intestinal flu or viral gastroenteritis often subside within 24 to 48 hours if you refrain from eating solid foods and get plenty of fluids. If intestinal flu causes serious dehydration, hospitalization and rehydration with intravenous fluids may be necessary.

Intestinal flu is quite common and extremely contagious. It can occur in any age group or population. It tends to affect infants, children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems more seriously than healthy adults.

Intestinal flu can lead to serious complications, such as dehydration. Seek prompt medical care if you have a chronic illness, a compromised immune system, or symptoms of intestinal flu that do not improve after a day or two. Contact your physician or health care provider right away if your newborn baby has symptoms of intestinal flu.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, your child, or someone you are with, have symptoms of intestinal flu accompanied by lethargy, change in alertness, inability to produce tears, major rectal bleeding, or lack of urination.


What are the symptoms of intestinal flu?

The symptoms of intestinal flu can range from mild to severe and may vary depending on the underlying viral infection. The symptoms generally resolve within 24 to 48 hours but may last up to 10 days.

Symptoms of intestinal flu can include:


What causes intestinal flu?

Intestinal flu is caused by a gastrointestinal viral infection. These infections can be transmitted by contact with people who have intestinal flu, or by ingesting water or food contaminated with a gastrointestinal virus.

Common types of viruses that cause intestinal flu and gastroenteritis include:


How is intestinal flu treated?

Rehydration is the cornerstone of treatment for intestinal flu for all age groups and types of viral infections. Treatment plans also generally involve rest and minimizing the discomfort of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Treatment of intestinal flu may include:

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: Infections and Contagious Diseases

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