Gastroenteritis Symptoms

Authored by Dr Laurence Knott, 20 Sep 2017

Patient is a certified member of
The Information Standard

Reviewed by:
Dr Adrian Bonsall, 20 Sep 2017

Gastroenteritis is common. About 1 in 5 people in the UK will develop an episode of gastroenteritis in a year.

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.

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:
    • Tiredness.
    • Dizziness or light-headedness.
    • Headache.
    • Muscular cramps.
    • Sunken eyes.
    • Passing little urine.
    • A dry mouth and tongue.
    • Weakness.
    • Becoming irritable.
  • Symptoms of severe dehydration in adults include:
    • Weakness.
    • Confusion.
    • Rapid heart rate.
    • Coma.
    • Producing very little urine.
    Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and immediate medical attention is needed.

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

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