Symptoms and Signs of Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu)

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Medically Reviewed on 7/22/2022

Doctor's Notes on Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu)

Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the lining of the stomach and small intestine. It causes symptoms that are commonly referred to as the “stomach flu”, but the condition is not related to influenza. Viral infections are the most common cause of gastroenteritis, but certain bacteria can also cause the condition. Rotavirus and norovirus are the two main causes of viral gastroenteritis. Parasitic infections, toxins, and drugs are other possible causes of gastroenteritis. 

Signs and symptoms of gastroenteritis include:

The diarrhea of viral gastroenteritis typically does not contain blood and may be watery. Some types of bacterial gastroenteritis can cause bloody diarrhea. Other associated signs and symptoms can include: 

What Is the Treatment for Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu)?

Treatment of gastroenteritis depends on the cause, but there are some general principles of treatment that apply to most situations:

  • Maintenance of hydration is essential. 
    • Adults should drink plenty of clear fluids slowly over time.
    • Children may be given an oral rehydration solution. 
  • After symptoms begin to improve, foods should be introduced slowly, starting with bland foods. 
  • Medications can be given if necessary to control vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Certain bacterial infections may require antibiotic treatment.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.