Are you or a loved one experiencing stomach virus symptoms? In this article, we provide answers to common questions about the gastroenteritis virus, gastro symptoms and treatment, how to prevent gastro, and a handy checklist to help you recover as quickly as possible.

What Is Bacterial Gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis is a viral or bacterial infection that irritates and inflames the stomach and intestines. Although it’s commonly called stomach flu, gastroenteritis isn’t the same as the flu (influenza)the flu (influenza). It is typically caused by a number of different viruses, such as the norovirus or rotavirus.

What Causes Gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis is often triggered by:

  • Person-to-person contact with a person infected with the norovirus or rotavirus
  • Consuming contaminated food or water
  • Touching contaminated objects

Infection may also be spread through contact with particles that disperse when an infected person vomits.

Healthy adults can usually recover from gastroenteritis without any complications. However, gastroenteritis can be life-threatening for infants, older adults and people with compromised immune systems.

Gastroenteritis Symptoms

Gastro symptoms typically surface one to two days after you ingest the virus, but in rare cases can affect the body within one hour. Symptoms typically last between one and three days but can make you ill for up to 10 days.

Stomach infection symptoms range from mild to severe, and may include:

  • Watery, non-bloody diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe abdominal cramps and stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Low-grade fever
  • Muscle aches
  • A headache

These stomach bug symptoms make it easy to confuse with other viruses such as Clostridium difficile, salmonella and E. coli, or parasites such as giardia.

Gastro Recovery Time

Gastro symptoms typically last just a couple of days. Rarely, they may persist for up to 10 days.

How Long Is Gastro Contagious?

Gastroenteritis has an incubation period of approximately 12 to 48 hours. The person affected is contagious during this incubation period and for as long as they experience viral shedding (typically between three days and two weeks after the gastro symptoms stop).

When Should I See A Doctor About Gastro?

If you’re an adult, call your doctor if:

  • You are unable to keep liquids down for 24 hours
  • You have been vomiting for more than two days
  • You’re vomiting blood
  • You experience dehydration, including dry skin, a dry mouth, lightheadedness, strong thirst, deep yellow urine or severe weakness
  • You have bloody diarrhoea
  • You have a fever above 40 degrees Celsius

See your doctor as soon as possible if your child:

  • Has a fever of 38.9 C or higher
  • Appears dehydrated, lethargic or very irritable
  • Is in a lot of discomfort or pain
  • Has bloody diarrhoea

Call your baby’s doctor right away if your baby:

  • Has vomiting that lasts more than several hours
  • Has not had a wet nappy in six hours
  • Has bloody stools or severe diarrhoea
  • Has a sunken soft spot (fontanel) on the top of their head
  • Has a dry mouth or cries without tears
  • Is unusually sleepy, drowsy or unresponsive

Gastro Treatment

Since antibiotics are ineffective against viruses, there is no specific stomach flu medicine.

The best stomach flu treatment is plenty of rest and hydration. If usual hydration methods are ineffective, you may need to visit a hospital to replenish your fluids through intravenous hydration.

Preventing Gastroenteritis

Since there’s no effective treatment for gastro, prevention is key. We recommend:

  • Thorough and frequent hand washing – Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap. Rub your hands vigorously for 20 seconds, remembering to wash around cuticles, beneath fingernails and in the creases of the hands, before rinsing. If you have a child, teach them to do the same. Keep sanitising wipes and hand sanitiser on hand.
  • Avoiding unsafe food and water – Make sure the food you ingest has been safely prepared.
  • Vaccinations – If you have a child, arrange for them to have the vaccine.
  • Avoid sharing personal items – Use separate personal items, such as towels and toothbrushes. Avoid sharing eating utensils, drinking glasses and plates.
  • Avoid close contact with an infected person – Keep a safe distance from people infected with gastro.
  • Disinfect surfaces in your home – Disinfect hard surfaces such as counters, faucets and doorknobs.

How To Recover From Gastro: A Handy Checklist

Your aim is to help keep yourself more comfortable and prevent dehydration while you recover.

Stomach Flu: Foods To Eat After Food Poisoning

What should you eat if you have a stomach bug? We recommend choosing foods that are gentle on the stomach, such as:

  • Bananas
  • Soft cereals such as oatmeal
  • Honey
  • Egg whites
  • Plain bread
  • Soft jelly
  • Soft cooked rice
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Plain chicken

Foods to avoid include:

  • Dairy products
  • Caffeine (including soft drinks, coffee and energy drinks)
  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine
  • Fatty or fried foods
  • Seasoned foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Foods high in fibre
  • Fruit juice

Stop eating immediately if your nausea returns.

Stomach Flu: What To Drink

Drink lots of water every day, taking small, frequent sips. The following drinks are also acceptable:

  • Non-caffeinated sports drinks that contain electrolytes
  • Ginger tea
  • Chicken or vegetable broth

The Importance of Rest

Get plenty of rest. The illness and dehydration may make you feel weak and tired.

Be Careful With Medications For Children

Before choosing pain relief, discuss your options with your child’s doctor. We do not recommend the following:

  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) – Avoid relying heavily on medications such as ibuprofen as these can upset your stomach.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) – Use acetaminophen with caution, since it can cause liver toxicity, especially in children.

For more advice on how to identify and treat gastro, book an appointment with a GP at our state of the art clinics today or contact us on (07) 3711 2880.