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Gastroenteritis is an infection of the stomach and large intestine (bowel). The infection interferes with the absorption of water from the contents of your intestines into the body, which is one of the main functions of the intestines.


Noroviruses are the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in adults. Norovirus infections are sometimes referred to as "winter vomiting bugs" because they tend to be more widespread during the winter months. However, they can occur at any time of the year.

Food poisoning Most cases of bacterial gastroenteritis are caused by food poisoning. Some cases of viral gastroenteritis can also be caused by food poisoning. Food can become contaminated with a virus if it is handled by a person with a viral infection. Contamination can occur at any stage during the food's production, processing or cooking. For example, food poisoning can be caused by: Not cooking food at the right temperature or for the right length of time Not chilling food at the correct temperature Someone who has not washed their hands properly handling the food Eating food after it has reached its use by date Cross-contamination The most common types of bacteria that are associated with gastroenteritis are: Campylobacter – a bacterium found in raw meat and poultry, un-pasteurised milk and untreated water Salmonella – a bacterium found in raw meat, poultry, eggs and un-pasteurised milk Escherichia coli (E. coli) – a bacterium found in undercooked beef and un-pasteurised milk Traveller's diarrhoea Traveller's diarrhoea refers to gastroenteritis that develops after travelling abroad. It can be caused by a range of different bacteria or parasites.


The time between catching the infection and the start of symptoms (the incubation period) depends on the type of infection you have. It can range from one hour to a few weeks but it's usually between one and three days. You may have symptoms including: diarrhoea, which may contain blood and mucus, or be watery, greasy or frothy feeling sick or vomiting abdominal cramps, bloating, stomach rumbling or pain loss of appetite a fever The time it takes to recover depends on what infection you have. Most people recover fully within approximately 10 days, although you’re likely to start feeling better sooner than that. However, severe infections, which are uncommon in the UK, may last for many weeks. It's important to go to your G.P. if your symptoms last for more than a week, or if you have recently travelled abroad. For children with gastroenteritis, diarrhoea usually lasts for five to seven days and stops within two weeks, and vomiting usually lasts for one to two days, stopping within three days. If the symptoms continue for longer than this, see your G.P. In adults and older children, the symptoms of gastroenteritis may be confused with other conditions, such as ulcerative colitis.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Most cases of gastroenteritis do not require treatment and the symptoms will improve after a few days. Medication may be needed in severe cases. Hospital treatment may be required for people with serious dehydration caused by gastroenteritis. Admission to hospital is usually recommended when: Repeated episodes of vomiting mean that you are unable to keep down any fluids You have symptoms that suggest severe dehydration, such as not passing any urine Treatment in hospital will involve administering fluids and nutrients intravenously (directly into a vein).

Recommended Links

The Gastroenteritis page on the NHS website, click here: http://bit.ly/1abQMFH

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