Gastroenteritis is the medical term for an infection of the digestive tract that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, or both. This type of illness is common among children. Dr. Green, can you tell us more about gastroenteritis?
Sure, Dr. Patel. It's not unusual for people to describe this digestive illness as the "stomach flu" or simply "the flu," but these terms can be misleading. "Flu" is actually short for influenza, which is primarily a respiratory illness. Another informal term you may hear is "food poisoning," but gastroenteritis isn't only caused by contaminated food. "Stomach bug" is another informal name for this illness, with "bug" referring to one of the many bacteria, viruses, or parasites capable of infecting the digestive tract.
Although many cases of gastroenteritis last only a short while with few complications, dehydration can become a major concern. Children who are vomiting or have diarrhea may not be able to keep fluids down or may not retain enough fluids. In severe cases, dehydrated children may require hospitalization so they can receive fluids through an IV.
Most stomach bugs go away on their own within a day or two. If your child's symptoms last longer or get worse after 24 hours, talk to your child's provider.