Stomach viruses typically last a few days but can sometimes last a week or more. In some cases, they may cause longer lasting effects on a person’s health.
Stomach viruses cause symptoms that typically include watery diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.
People may also refer to viral gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestines due to viral infection, as “stomach flu.” Two examples of stomach viruses are rotavirus and norovirus. Both are highly contagious, so a person should avoid going to school or work for the duration of the infection.
In most people, the symptoms of a stomach virus will come and go
This article reviews how long stomach virus symptoms typically last, potential long-term effects, possible treatment options, tips for recovery, and when to see a doctor.
According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, the most common cause of gastroenteritis — inflammation in the intestines and stomach — in children is the rotavirus. However, adults can also contract this virus.
The rotavirus typically incubates for
The adenovirus and astrovirus also often affect children. The adenovirus typically incubates for
However, some research suggests that the stomach flu can have long lasting effects on a person’s health in some cases.
One area of concern is the gut microbiota, which consists of a large variety of bacteria and other microorganisms that help break down foods and may play a role in several aspects of a person’s health. According to an older 2012 study, acute infections
The researchers suggested that this may happen due to an imbalance or disruption of the species in the microbiota after the infection.
In cases of viral gastroenteritis, treatment typically focuses on preventing dehydration.
- drinking plenty of fluids that contain electrolytes, such as:
- eating saltines
- drinking rehydration solutions, if the person with a stomach virus is a child or an older adult or has a weakened immune system
Adults may find that taking over-the-counter diarrhea medication may help as long as they do not experience bloody diarrhea or fever. Options include loperamide and bismuth subsalicylate. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe medication for severe vomiting.
After having the stomach flu, a person does not typically need to follow any special diet. Often, an adult or child
A person should limit contact with other people for the first few days after contracting the virus, as they can still transmit it to others during this time. Some evidence suggests that people may be able to transmit norovirus for
Most cases of stomach flu are self-limiting and will go away within about a week without any medical treatment.
However, people should drink plenty of fluids and look for symptoms of dehydration. If a person experiences severe dehydration, they
A person should also talk with a doctor if they develop any of the following symptoms:
- diarrhea that lasts for
longer than 2 days
- high fever
- severe abdominal or rectal pain
- six or more loose stools in a day
- frequent vomiting
- changes in mental state, such as confusion or lack of energy
- stools that contain blood or pus
If complications occur or symptoms last a long time, a person should consider consulting a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.
Long lasting stomach viruses may occur in rare cases, possibly due to changes in the gut microbiota. However, most people should recover within about a week.
If complications occur, a person should consult a doctor to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.
Otherwise, most stomach viruses clear up without treatment, and a person can return to their typical diet and lifestyle afterward.