Gastroenteritis refers to inflammation in the intestines and stomach. Viral gastroenteritis can cause symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. Stool tests may help with gastroenteritis diagnosis.
In the United States, norovirus is the most common cause of diarrhea and vomiting as a result of acute gastroenteritis. Annually, it affects
Most of the time, viral gastroenteritis lasts
This article discusses stool tests for infectious gastroenteritis in more detail. It also discusses gastroenteritis diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and when to speak with a healthcare professional.
A person who contracts norovirus, which is one possible cause of viral gastroenteritis, may find their symptoms clear completely within about
If a person does contact a doctor about infectious gastroenteritis symptoms, the doctor may order a stool test. Infectious gastroenteritis refers to inflammation in the stomach and intestines that occurs due to the presence of a pathogen, such as bacteria or a virus.
Healthcare professionals can use a stool test to
If a healthcare professional requests a stool test, a person will need to collect a sample of stool in a container that a doctor or lab provides. Once a person collects the sample, they should follow any instructions about where to send or take the container for analysis.
If a person does seek medical evaluation, a doctor will likely perform a physical exam, discuss a person’s medical history, and may order a stool sample.
During the physical exam, a healthcare professional will check a person’s blood pressure and heart rate and for any signs of dehydration and fever. They may also use a stethoscope to listen to sounds in the abdomen and tap on the abdomen to check for tenderness or pain.
In some cases, they may perform a rectal exam, which involves a doctor sliding a gloved, lubricated finger into a person’s anus to check for blood in their stool.
A healthcare professional will also likely ask questions about a person’s medical history, which may include questions about the type, length, duration, and frequency of symptoms. They may also ask about any recent travel, recent exposure to people who are feeling unwell, and history of other health complications.
A healthcare professional may also order a stool sample to check for infection, inflammation, and other digestive health conditions.
Gastroenteritis does not typically require any specialized treatments. Viral infections will often resolve
Other possible treatments a doctor may recommend include:
- over-the-counter antidiarrheal medications, such as bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol) and loperamide (Imodium)
- prescription medication to help prevent vomiting
However, if a person has another type of pathogen, such as bacteria or fungi, a healthcare professional may recommend different treatments to manage the infection.
A person can take steps to help prevent the transmission of pathogens that cause gastroenteritis, such as norovirus. They may include:
- frequently hand washing with soap and water for
at least 20 seconds, and in particular:
- before taking or giving someone else medication
- before eating, preparing, or handling food
- after using the toilet or changing diapers
- cooking shellfish completely to an internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C)
- rinsing off vegetables and fruits before eating or cooking
- cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces and thoroughly washing all laundry that may have come into contact with vomit or stool
- not preparing food for other people if a person has gastroenteritis or has experienced gastroenteritis symptoms within the past 2 days
A person may not need to contact a doctor for diarrhea and vomiting as a result of acute gastroenteritis. Symptoms of norovirus, which is the
If a person with stomach flu has another health condition, such as a weakened immune system, kidney disease, or inflammatory bowel disease, they should contact a doctor straight away. Pregnant people and older adults should also speak with a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
Additionally, if a person experiences the following symptoms, they should speak with a doctor immediately:
Stool tests are a type of lab test for gastroenteritis that check for common causes of infection, inflammation, and other health conditions that affect the digestive system.
Treatment for viral gastroenteritis typically involves making sure a person gets enough fluids and electrolytes. Certain medications may help to ease some symptoms, such as diarrhea.
A person should speak with a doctor if their symptoms last for more than a few days, if they become dehydrated, or notice certain symptoms, such as blood in their stool.