Gastroenteritis, also referred to as ‘stomach flu’, is inflammation of the stomach and intestinal lining, which causes diarrhea and vomiting.
It can be caused by a virus, a bacteria or a parasite. Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in adults. This virus circulates mainly in the fall and winter. Other viruses and bacteria can spread stomach flu, especially in people traveling abroad.
Gastroenteritis is extremely contagious. You can avoid spreading and catching it through simple hygienic measures such as washing your hands.
The main symptoms of gastroenteritis are the following:
Other symptoms may sometimes appear:
Symptoms of gastroenteritis usually last 24 to 72 hours. However, they can last up to 10 days if the stomach flu began while travelling abroad or upon your return.
Persons with gastroenteritis are usually contagious when showing symptoms, and most particularly so when symptoms are severe. They may be contagious even a few weeks after symptoms have subsided.
If you have symptoms of gastroenteritis, it is important that you stay home to heal and to avoid transmitting the illness to other people, until all symptoms have disappeared. Should you have questions regarding your condition, contact Info-Santé 8-1-1.
Gastroenteritis is generally not serious. Most people take care of themselves at home and self-heal without taking medicines. However, in some cases, you should consult a doctor or contact Info-Santé 8-1-1.
People likely to experience complications should contact Info-Santé 8-1-1. Some cases also require evaluation by a nurse. For instance, you should call Info-Santé 8-1-1 if you or your child are in one of the following situations:
A nurse will give you specific advice and tell you whether or not you need to see a doctor right away.
You should see a doctor the same day if you or your child are in one of the following situations:
You should go to emergency immediately if you or your child are in one of the following situations:
Rehydrating yourself and eating well are the two main ways of treating gastroenteritis. To learn more, see Hydrating and Rehydrating When You Have Gastroenteritis and Foods to Eat When You Have Gastroenteritis.
The main complication of gastroenteritis is dehydration. It occurs when the body eliminates too large a quantity of water and mineral salts, which are essential to the proper functioning of the body.
To avoid dehydration, follow the advice given in Hydrating and Rehydrating When You Have Gastroenteritis.
Some people are more at risk of experiencing complications. They include:
If you or your child are in these categories of people and show symptoms of gastroenteritis, contact Info-Santé 8-1-1. A nurse will evaluate your condition and give you the appropriate recommendations.
Gastroenteritis is a contagious illness. An infected person can transmit the illness as long they have symptoms and up to 2 weeks after they have disappeared. He or she can be contagious even a few weeks after symptoms have subsided.
Gastroenteritis can be transmitted:
You can protect yourself from gastroenteritis and avoid transmission by adopting simple hygiene measures:
You can find additional hygiene measures at Preventing Transmission of Viruses and Bacteria.
Rotavirus is the main virus responsible for gastroenteritis in children. Giving young children vaccination against this virus is the best way to protect them against gastroenteritis. Depending on the vaccine used, 2 or 3 doses are required. Children must receive the first dose of the vaccine before the age of 20 weeks and the last before 8 months.
For information on the vaccine against rotavirus, consult a doctor or contact Info-Santé 8-1-1.
Last update: October 21, 2016 4:11 PM
The information on this website by no means replaces the advice of a health professional. If you have questions regarding your health, contact Info-Santé 8-1-1 or see a health professional.