How Long Can Stomach Virus Last Normally?

Viral Gastroenteritis

Viral Gastroenteritis

Updated on 9/28/2023
Martin AlvarezBy Martin Alvarez
Nutritionist/Dietitian Professional Guide
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A Quick Overview

An intestinal infection caused by a virus can cause signs and symptoms such as diarrhea that is watery, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting, and sometimes fever as well.

The most common ways to contract viral gastroenteritis, often known as stomach flu, are through direct contact with an infected person or through the consumption of food or water that has been tainted with the virus. It is possible that you will recover without experiencing any difficulties if you are generally healthy. However, newborns, elderly adults, and persons whose immune systems are already impaired are more likely to pass away as a result of viral gastroenteritis.

There is currently no cure for viral gastroenteritis, making prevention the most important treatment option. Steer clear of food and water that may be tainted, and ensure that you carefully and routinely wash your hands.

Symptoms Than Will Happen



Gastroenteritis is not the same as the flu, despite the fact that many people refer to it as stomach flu. Only your respiratory system, which includes your nose, throat, and lungs, can become infected with influenza. On the other hand, gastroenteritis is an infection that targets your intestines and can cause signs and symptoms such as the following:

  • Diarrhea that is watery and typically doesn't contain blood; having bloody diarrhea typically indicates that you have a different infection that is more serious.
  • Nausea, vomiting or both may be present.
  • Aching and cramping in the stomach
  • Occasional sore muscles and headaches are to be expected.
  • mild or moderate fever

Depending on what caused the infection, the symptoms of viral gastroenteritis can occur anywhere from one to three days after the initial infection and can range from mild to severe. Symptoms often only last for one or two days, although in rare cases, they might persist for as long as a month.

It is easy to confuse viral diarrhea with diarrhea caused by bacteria, such as Clostridioides difficile, salmonella, and Escherichia coli, or by parasites, such as giardia, because the symptoms are identical for all three types of diarrhea.

When Should One Go To The Doctor?

High Fever

High Fever

Call your doctor immediately if you are an adult and any of the following apply to you:

  • You are unable to keep any drinks down for the next twenty-four hours.
  • You have experienced either vomiting or diarrhea for more than two days at this point.
  • You're vomiting blood.
  • You are suffering from dehydration, which can be identified by extreme fatigue, dizziness, or lightheadedness, in addition to excessive thirst and a dry mouth. Urine that is dark yellow in color or very little or none at all is another indicator.
  • You have noticed that there is blood in your stools.
  • You are suffering from severe abdominal pain.
  • You have a temperature of over 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 C)

For Newborns And Younger Children

Immediately consult your child's primary care physician if your child exhibits any of the following symptoms:

  • Carries a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher (38.9 degrees Celsius) or higher
  • Appears to be exhausted or extremely agitated.
  • Is suffering from a great deal of annoyance or agony
  • Has bloody diarrhea
Sick Child

Sick Child

  • Appears to be dehydrated; look for signs of dehydration in sick infants and children by comparing how much they drink and urinate to how much is normal for them, as well as by watching for signs such as a dry mouth, thirst, and wailing without tears.

If you have a young child, it is important to keep in mind that while gagging and spitting up are normal behaviors for babies, and vomiting is not one of them. There are numerous different causes of infant vomiting, and the majority of them may require medical intervention.

Please get in touch with your child's pediatrician as soon as possible if your child:

  • Has episodes of vomiting that occur frequently.
  • Has gone six hours without having a soiled diaper.
  • Has a severe case of diarrhea or feces that are bloody.
  • possesses a sunken soft spot (also known as a fontanel) on the crown of their head
  • A person who suffers from dry mouth or crying without tears
  • Is uncharacteristically drowsy, sleepy, or unresponsive

What Are The Causes?

If you eat or drink something that is contaminated, you significantly increase your risk of developing viral gastroenteritis. If you share utensils, towels, or food with someone who is infected with one of the viruses that cause gastroenteritis, there is a chance that you will also become afflicted with the ailment.



There are a number of viruses that can cause gastroenteritis, including the following:

  • Noroviruses. Noroviruses, which are the leading cause of foodborne illness on a global scale, can afflict people of any age, including children and adults. An outbreak of norovirus can quickly spread through a neighborhood or community, and it's most prone to spread between people in close quarters when there are more of them.

The vast majority of times, the virus is caught by consuming tainted food or drinking water. However, it is also possible for it to spread between people who are in close proximity to one another or who share food. It is also possible to contract the virus by touching a surface that has been contaminated with norovirus and then touching your mouth thereafter. This is another method of transmission.

  • Rotavirus. Children are typically infected with viral gastroenteritis because they put their fingers or other objects that may be contaminated with the virus into their mouths. This is the most prevalent cause of viral gastroenteritis in children all over the world. It is also possible for it to spread from ingesting contaminated food. Infants and younger children tend to have the most severe symptoms of the virus.

Even if they don't have symptoms, adults who are infected with rotavirus can still spread the infection to others. Because people who are infected with the virus can transmit it to others without their knowledge, this is a particularly pressing issue in institutional settings like nursing homes. It is possible to get a vaccine that protects against viral gastroenteritis in certain nations, one of which is the United States. This vaccine appears to be effective in warding off the sickness.



There is also seafood that can make you sick, particularly oysters that are eaten raw or only partially cooked. In some cases, viral diarrhea might be attributed to consuming contaminated water. However, the virus can be passed on to you if the person who handles the food you consume after they have used the restroom does not wash their hands and then touches the food you eat.

What Are The Risks?

The infectious disease known as gastroenteritis can strike people of any age anywhere in the world.

People who are more likely to be at risk for gastroenteritis include the following:

  • Kids in their early years. Because it takes time for a kid's immune system to grow, it is possible that children attending primary schools or child care facilities may be especially susceptible to the disease.
  • Older adults. Later in adulthood, the immune systems of most people start to lose some of their effectiveness. The elderly residents of nursing homes are particularly vulnerable due to the decline of their immune systems. They also live in close proximity to other people, who may spread viruses to one another.
  • Students at an educational institution or occupants at a dorm. Any setting in which large numbers of individuals congregate in close quarters has the potential to be a breeding ground for the transmission of intestinal infections.
Compromised Immune system

Compromised Immune system

  • Those who have a compromised immune system of any kind. If your resistance to infection is low — for example, if your immune system is affected by HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy, or another medical condition — you may be at an increased risk of contracting an infection.

Every virus that infects the gastrointestinal tract has a certain time of year when it is at its peak activity. In the winter and spring, people who reside in the Northern Hemisphere have a higher risk of contracting rotavirus and norovirus infections than people who live in other parts of the world.

What Are The Complications?

The most common and serious complication of viral gastroenteritis is dehydration, which is characterized by a significant loss of water as well as important salts and minerals. If you are healthy and consume enough fluids to replenish the fluids that you lose from vomiting and diarrhea, you shouldn't have a problem with being dehydrated.

When people lose more fluids than they can replace, they run the risk of being severely dehydrated. This is especially true for infants, older adults, and persons with compromised immune systems. It is possible that they will require hospitalization in order to have their fluid levels restored via an IV implanted in their arms. In extreme cases, dehydration might even be fatal.



What Are The Preventations?

Following these preventative measures is the most effective strategy to stop the spread of gastrointestinal infections:

  • Make sure your kid gets immunized. There is currently a vaccination available in certain countries, notably the United States, to protect against gastroenteritis caused by the rotavirus. It suggests that the vaccination if administered to children during their first year of life, is useful in reducing severe symptoms associated with this illness.
  • You should properly wash your hands. Also, make sure that your kids are doing the same thing. Teach your older children, especially after they have used the restroom, to always wash their hands after they have been there.

Always remember to wash your hands after changing diapers as well as before eating or preparing food. It is preferable to wash one's hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds while thoroughly rubbing them together. Be sure to clean the wrinkles in your hands as well as the areas surrounding your fingernails and cuticles. After that, give it a good rinse. Always be prepared for situations in which you won't have access to soap and water by packing sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer in your bag.

  • Make use of unique personal artifacts all throughout your house. It is best not to share eating utensils, drinking glasses, or plates with other people. In the restroom, you should use individual towels.
Washing Hands

Washing Hands

  • Make sure the food is safe. Before you eat them, be sure that all of your fruits and veggies have been washed. It is important to clean the kitchen surfaces before using them to prepare food. If you are ill, you should refrain from cooking food.
  • Keep your distance. If at all possible, you should try to avoid coming into close contact with somebody who has the infection.
  • Decontaminate any rough surfaces. Suppose someone in your household has viral gastroenteritis. In that case, you should disinfect hard surfaces, such as counters, faucets, and doorknobs, with a mixture of 5-25 tablespoons (73 to 369 milliliters) of household bleach to 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water. This mixture should be sprayed on the surfaces and allowed to sit for at least 15 minutes before wiping clean.
  • Stay away from the laundry since it could have been contaminated with a virus. Put on gloves before touching the clothes if someone in your household is suffering from viral gastroenteritis. It is recommended to wash clothes and bedding in very hot water and to dry them using the highest possible heat setting. After touching the clean laundry, thoroughly wash your hands.
  • Investigate the child care center in your area. Make sure that the center has separate spaces for preparing or serving food as well as changing diapers for children. In the same room as the changing table, there ought to be a sink, as well as some hygienic means of getting rid of used diapers.
Sealed Water Bottle

Sealed Water Bottle

When Traveling, It Is Important To Exercise Prudence

It is possible to become ill while traveling to foreign nations as a result of consuming food or water that has been tainted. It's possible that if you follow these suggestions, you'll be able to lower your risk:

  • Only consume water that is sold in sealed bottles or that has been carbonated.
  • Steer clear of ice cubes if you can, as they can have been prepared with tainted water.
  • When you brush your teeth, use water from a bottle.
  • Avoid eating any raw food that has been handled by a human, including unpeeled fruits and vegetables, raw salads, and raw salad dressings.
  • Steer clear of meat and seafood that is undercooked.