What is Gastroenteritis?

What is Gastroenteritis?

Key Facts

  • Gastroenteritis (‘gastro’) is a common and often highly infectious condition that affects the stomach and intestines. It can cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • Other symptoms include loss of appetite, abdominal pain, fever, body aches, and lethargy
  • It can be caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites, toxins, medication or chemicals
  • Babies under 6 months should always be seen by a doctor if they have gastro
  • Children should not return to school and adults should not return to work until 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea and/or vomiting


  • Good old-fashioned handwashing with soap and water is still the best defence against spreading the bug
  • Reduce your risk of catching or spreading gastro by washing your hands well after using the bathroom, changing nappies, or handling food
  • Gastroenteritis is treated by drinking fluids and doesn’t usually require medication.
  • Electrolyte replacement is essential to prevent dehydration. Examples include:
    • Hydralyte comes in forms suitable for all age groups:
      • Powder sachets
      • Effervescent tablets
      • Ice blocks
  • Antibiotics are only suitable if the cause is bacterial. This is diagnosed by a doctor
  • If a fever is present, paracetamol is the preferred treatment to reduce the symptoms
  • Gastroenteritis symptoms usually last for 1 to 2 days, but occasionally may persist for as long as 10 days
  • Adults and older children should seek medical advice if their symptoms include a fever, severe abdominal pain, blood in their diarrhea, or signs of dehydration, such as thirst and decreased urination, lethargy, dry mouth, sunken eyes, or feeling faint when standing.


  • Rotavirus is a virus that causes severe gastroenteritis in babies and young children. All young children can receive the rotavirus vaccine at 6 weeks and 4 months of age. (A third dose at 6 months may be needed depending on the brand of vaccine used)
  • This vaccine is effective in preventing rotavirus infection in about 7 out of every 10 children vaccinated. It also prevents severe gastroenteritis in about 9 out of every 10 vaccinated infants. The vaccine provides protection for up to 5
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