What causes stomach flu?

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Howard E. Lewine, MD
Hospitalist
"Stomach flu" is the commonly used name for gastroenteritis. Gastroenteritis is almost always caused by a virus. But it is not caused by the influenza virus.

The viruses that most often cause gastroenteritis are noroviruses and rotaviruses, but there are host of other viruses. Some bacteria and parasites also can be the culprit.

The usual symptoms of gastroenteritis include:
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal discomfort, usually cramps
  • An upset stomach
  • Nausea, occasionally with vomiting
Gastroenteritis may cause a low fever and mild headache.

Viral gastroenteritis goes away without medication. The main concern until it goes away is dehydration. You can avoid this by drinking plenty of fluids.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.