Skip to contentright arrow
eMed previously Babylon Health


Reviewed by Dr Claudia Pastides, 24th April 2019

A virus or bacteria is the main cause of gastroenteritis, which causes diarrhoea and vomiting. The condition is very common in young children, caused by the rotavirus. In adults, food poisoning or the norovirus are the main culprits. While gastroenteritis is a very unpleasant illness, the good news is that it usually clears up on its own within a week.

Because gastroenteritis is highly contagious, it is not recommended to visit a doctor’s surgery if you notice the symptoms. If you think you need to discuss your condition or experience additional symptoms, then you can video chat with a GP from the comfort of your own home for medical advice. If you’re suffering from gastroenteritis then you should stay off work and school to avoid spreading it to others.

Symptoms of gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis symptoms usually appear within 24 hours of becoming infected, and typically last less than a week.

  • Vomiting or projectile vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Mild fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches and aching limbs

If you or your child have symptoms of dehydration, speak to a doctor as soon as possible.

What causes gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial tummy bug. The two main viruses are the norovirus and rotavirus, but it can also be caused by food poisoning – bacteria such as salmonella and E.coli. These bugs are easily spread from person to person, through close contact or contaminated food and surfaces.


In most cases, gastroenteritis symptoms will start to improve after a few days. There is no specific treatment for gastroenteritis but you can help yourself by:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Take rehydration sachets if you think you’re at risk of dehydration
  • Rest at home
  • Take anti-vomiting medication, paracetamol or antidiarrheal medication if you need to

Don’t put others at risk – speak to a doctor today today while recovering at home.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.