MSD Manual

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Quick Facts



The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Mar 2021| Content last modified Mar 2021
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What is gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis is inflammation of your stomach and intestines.

  • Gastroenteritis is usually caused by an infection with a virus or bacteria

  • You feel very sick to your stomach, throw up, and have diarrhea

  • Throwing up and diarrhea can lead to dehydration (not having enough water in your body), which is especially dangerous in old people and babies

  • To help prevent the spread of gastroenteritis, wash your hands after using the bathroom and avoid undercooked food

  • Gastroenteritis usually goes away on its own

  • You'll need extra fluids and sometimes drugs to help stop vomiting or diarrhea

  • Antibiotics don't usually help with gastroenteritis

What causes gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis is usually caused by:

Other causes include:

What are the symptoms of gastroenteritis?

Symptoms start suddenly and include:

  • Feeling sick to your stomach and throwing up

  • Belly rumbles or cramps

  • Diarrhea

How can doctors tell I have gastroenteritis?

Doctors know you have gastroenteritis from your symptoms. They usually don't need to do tests, but sometimes they may do:

  • Stool (poop) tests

How do doctors treat gastroenteritis?

For adults with mild gastroenteritis, doctors will have you:

  • Take small, frequent sips of fluid

  • Eat regular food as soon as your stomach feels up to it

If you're a healthy adult, the kind of fluid and food really doesn't matter.

If your baby or young child has gastroenteritis, you should give them:

  • Oral rehydration fluid, which you can get in a drug store or supermarket

Oral rehydration fluids have the right balance of salts and minerals that babies and young children need.

For more severe gastroenteritis, doctors may:

  • Give you fluids by vein (IV)

  • Give you medicines to stop diarrhea and help your belly feel better

  • Give you medicine to get rid of parasites, if a parasite is causing your gastroenteritis

  • For certain rarer kinds of gastroenteritis, give you antibiotics

How can I prevent gastroenteritis?

The following lower your chance of getting gastroenteritis:

  • Washing hands well after using the bathroom and before preparing food

  • Cooking meat and eggs thoroughly

  • Not eating food from street vendors while traveling

  • Trying not to swallow water while swimming in lakes and oceans

  • Getting your children the rotavirus vaccine

  • For babies, breastfeeding

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Loss of Smell
Anosmia is the total loss of smell. Most people with anosmia can taste sweet, sour, salty, and bitter substances but cannot distinguish among specific flavors. This is because the sense of smell makes it possible to distinguish among flavors, not taste receptors as many people erroneously believe. Which of the following is NOT a common cause of anosmia?
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