Viral Gastroenteritis

Viral Gastroenteritis

Viral Gastroenteritis

The most common cause of gastro, is a viral infection. It can be caused by different strands of viruses, but the most common two are the rotavirus and the norovirus. It is highly contagious and precautions should always be taken so as to lower your risk of infection.

Causes of viral gastro

People with the highest risk of infection are:

  • Infants and young children under five years old.
  • Elderly people, particularly those living in nursing homes.
  • Children and adults who suffer from weak immune systems.
  • People in group situations such as schools, hospitals, nursing homes and even cruise ships.

Diagram of gastro


This is the most common cause of diarrhoea in small children and infants. Children act as the ‘spreading agent’ who then infect other adults and children. The virus enters the patient from their mouth, being spread orally.

Your symptoms will start to show after two days from infection, and can be any or all of the following:


  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Watery stool
  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea


This strand of virus can affect people of all ages and is especially contagious. It is known to spread through contaminated water, food, surfaces and infected people. This type of virus is commonly found in crowded areas, as mentioned above. It can also lead to severe diarrhoea.

Other symptoms can include:


It is important that you lower your chances of infection by ensuring your food is always hygienically prepared, that you do not eat undercooked food or drink contaminated water and always wash your hands after changing a diaper or going to the toilet.

Are there are complications for viral gastro?

When to call your doctor

The biggest complication for gastro is dehydration, this is obviously more severe in small children and babies. You will need to call your doctor if you or your child display any of the following symptoms:

  • Blood in stools or dark, close to black coloured stools
  • Feeling confused and lethargic
  • Nausea
  • Sunken eyes or fontanelle (these are the soft spots on your baby’s head) from dehydration
  • Not being able to produce tears when crying
  • Dry tongue and mouth
  • Feeling faint and dizzy
  • Not being able to urinate for over eight hours
  • Urine is a dark yellow or even brown
  • Continuous diarrhoea for over a few days

How will my doctor diagnose viral gastro?

Your doctor will typically diagnose you based on your symptoms, conducting a physical exam as well as if similar cases have appeared in your community.

A stool test can also be conducted, where you will need to give your doctor your stool for him/her to have examined – this will help to pick up if it is a rotavirus or norovirus.

What will be the treatment for viral gastro?

There is no specific treatment for viral gastro, your doctor will most likely recommend that you drink plenty of fluids and in severe cases, hospitalise you in order to get fluids into you via a drip (intravenously).

There are possible rehydrate solutions available at your local pharmacies too, speak to your doctor about these. Remember, antibiotics have no effect of viral gastro and should not be taken.

Are there home remedies for viral gastro?

The most important goal for your body is to stop it from becoming dehydrated, the following can be done in order to ensure a quick recovery with no long-term side effects:

  • Constantly take small sips of water or suck on ice. Stay away from caffeinated drinks as these can dehydrate you further.
  • Don’t eat solids for a couple of days in order to let your stomach settle, rather opt for soups.
  • Try to stay away from spicy foods and opt for bland foods so as to help your stomach to get used to eating. Foods such as crackers, jelly, rice and chicken tend to help. Stay away from dairy products, cigarettes and alcohol.
  • Try and get plenty of rest to help your body to recover quickly.

The above list also applies to your children suffering from viral gastro.

Can I prevent viral Gastro?

The best way to avoid the spread of viral gastro is to try and stick to the following precautions:

  • Vaccinate your child against the rotavirus as this is most common in children.
  • Wash your hands and make sure your children wash their hands too. It is best to scrub them with soap for at least 20 seconds after going to the bathroom and before and after preparing food.
  • Avoid sharing eating utensils in your home and use separate towels in the bathroom.
  • Avoid close contact with people who have the virus.
  • Keep your surfaces in your home disinfected. Bleach with a litre of water works well as a disinfectant.
  • Take precautions when you travelling, such as avoiding tap water - ice cubes are also tap water! Also, avoid uncooked food. Raw fruits that have been peeled are also at risk for contamination.

How long will my viral gastro last?

The majority of people will only display symptoms for two to three days, and after which, they tend to make a full recovery and have no long-lasting side effects. However, the symptoms can last up to 10 days, after which, it is recommended that you consult with your health care professional. If your symptoms continue after two to three days and show no sign of improvement, it is a good idea to seek medical advice and attention.

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