Most people have a mild form of gastroenteritis and do not need to seek medical advice or to visit their doctor.
- The main symptom is diarrhoea, often with being sick (vomiting) as well. Diarrhoea means loose or watery stools (faeces), usually at least three times in 24 hours. Blood or mucus can appear in the stools with some infections.
- Crampy pains in your tummy (abdomen) are common. Pains may ease for a while each time you pass some diarrhoea.
- A high temperature (fever), headache and aching limbs sometimes occur.
If vomiting occurs, it often lasts only a day or so but sometimes longer. Diarrhoea often continues after the vomiting stops and commonly lasts for several days or more. Slightly loose stools may continue for a week or so further before a normal pattern returns. Sometimes the symptoms last longer.
What are the symptoms of dehydration?
Diarrhoea and being sick (vomiting) may cause lack of fluid in the body (dehydration). Consult a doctor quickly if you suspect you are becoming dehydrated. Mild dehydration is common and is usually easily reversed by drinking lots of fluids. Severe dehydration can be fatal unless quickly treated because the organs of your body need a certain amount of fluid to function.
- Symptoms of dehydration in adults include:
- Dizziness or light-headedness.
- Muscular cramps.
- Sunken eyes.
- Passing little urine.
- A dry mouth and tongue.
- Becoming irritable.
- Symptoms of severe dehydration in adults include:
- Rapid heart rate.
- Producing very little urine.
Dehydration in adults with gastroenteritis is more likely to occur in:
- Elderly or frail people.
- Pregnant women.
- People with severe diarrhoea and vomiting. In particular, if you are not able to replace the fluid lost with enough drinks.
Further reading and references
Freeman MC, Stocks ME, Cumming O, et al; Hygiene and health: systematic review of handwashing practices worldwide and update of health effects. Trop Med Int Health. 2014 Aug19(8):906-16. doi: 10.1111/tmi.12339. Epub 2014 May 28.
Acute diarrhoea in adults: racecadotril; NICE Evidence Summary New Medicine, March 2013
Gastroenteritis; NICE CKS, July 2015 (UK access only)
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