Your stomach flu could be Viral Gastroenteritis

Viral gastroenteritis is an infection of intestine and commonly known as stomach flu but is not flu as it attacks intestinal region.

Namrata Dutta
Written by: Namrata DuttaUpdated at: Feb 10, 2017 18:11 IST
Your stomach flu could be Viral Gastroenteritis

Stomach aches are quite common, aren’t they? However, you must not take your upset stomach for granted as it can be something severe that might need proper medical attention and doctor’s consultation. There happens to be times when people overlook minor aches and pains and stomach ache is the most overlooked ailment. People try to treat their stomach ache with home remedies and medicine available at hand without consulting doctor, which can aggravate the problem.


viral gastroenteritis

Sometimes the normal stomach ache, the nausea and fever is not normal stomach flu but something as big as viral gastroenteritis.


What is viral gastroenteritis?

Viral gastroenteritis is an infection of intestine and commonly known as stomach flu very common symptoms of viral gastroenteritis are extremely watery or loose diarrhea, vomiting and nausea, cramps in abdomen region and sometimes the sufferer might get fever, which are quite similar to common stomach infection.

Most commonly known as stomach flu, viral gastroenteritis occurs with direct contact with an infected person or by consuming infected water or food. There would not be any complications in recovery process, if you are healthy. However, if you are a person with a weak or compromised immunity, you can easily get infected by viral gastroenteritis. Infants, older people and certain people have weaker immune system and viral gastroenteritis can prove to be life threatening for them.

There is no effective treatment for viral gastroenteritis as of now, so prevention is the only thing that can save you from viral gastroenteritis.

The symptoms

Commonly viral gastroenteritis is known as stomach flu but it is nothing like influenza, which only affects the respiratory system, like your throat, lungs and nose while on the other hand, viral gastroenteritis or stomach flu attacks the intestinal region with very common signs and symptoms, like:


  • Extremely watery or loose diarrhea, if you see blood in your watery stool, it mean you have severe stages of infection.
  • You feel pain and cramps in your abdomen.
  • You might also feel nausea and vomit.
  • There could be muscle aches and headaches.
  • There have been cases where sufferer has minor fever.

If you have been infected with viral gastroenteritis, the symptoms might take twi to three days to appear and then depending on your recovery, the severity can either aggravate or alleviate. The symptoms can surface for one day and can last for ten days as well.

The symptoms of viral gastroenteritis are quite similar to diarrhea and make it difficult to diagnose it in earlier stages. Normal diarrhea is caused by bacteria salmonella and E. coli, or parasites, like giardia.

What is the right time to seek medical help?


  • It’s been 24 hours since you have not been able to keep the liquids down.
  • You have been vomiting for more than 48 hour.
  • You see blood in your vomit.
  • You are experiencing dry mouth, thirsty, your urine is deep yellow in color because of dehydration.
  • You feel dizzy, light headed and weakness.
  • You see blood in your stool.
  • You are feverish and temperature is above 104 F.


If you have an infant, call the doctor immediately if:

  • Has been puking for more than several hours.
  • Is not urinating for more than six hours.
  • You see blood in their stool, or watery diarrhea.
  • Is crying without any tears and has a dry mouth.
  • Seems lazy, less active, sleepy and drowsy.


What are the causes of viral gastroenteritis?

The prime cause of viral gastroenteritis is consumption of infected food or water and also, if you are sharing your towels, vessels and utensils, food and water with someone who is already infected with it.

The common viruses that cause gastroenteritis are:



Norovirus is a food borne illness and is the most common cause of gastroenteritis. It affects both children and adults. It is most likely to spread within a family where people use the same utensils. In the most cases, you can get infected with already infected water or food. This virus is very easily transmitted from a person to another person if they are using the same soap, toothbrush, towels etc.


Infants and small children have a habit of putting everything into their mouths and usually they put already contaminated objects in their mouths. This sort of infection is very common yet the most severe in children as the virus gets the direct passage to intestines.


Undercooked or partially cooked seafood like oysters, shellfish can make you sick, ultimately turning into viral gastroenteritis. Someone with infection is handing you food can become a cause of getting infected with viral gastroenteritis.



The diagnosis of viral gastroenteritis is solely based on the symptoms, a physical examination and many a time the doctor will look for similar cases in the family. Stool tests can detect norovirus and rotavirus but apart from that there are no quick tests that can determine other viruses and bacterial or parasitic infection that have caused gastro intestinal problems.


Treatments and drugs

There are no certain medical treatments to cure viral gastroenteritis. No antibiotics would be enough to combat against the bacterial or parasitic infection and viruses. Though there are vaccines available that is effective in preventing the infection but there is no sure-shot cure. The only way to keep viral gastroenteritis at bay is taking all the necessary self-care measures.



Image: Getty

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