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Diarrhoea and vomiting illness (Viral gastroenteritis) General information leaflet

NHS Calderdale, NHS Kirklees and Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust

What is viral gastroenteritis Viral gastroenteritis is a stomach bug that causes diarrhoea and/or vomiting in individuals and may cause outbreaks in hospitals, care homes and schools. It lasts two to three days and in addition to diarrhoea and/or vomiting, people often feel generally unwell with a raised temperature, headache and aching limbs. The illness is usually mild in nature and gets better without any treatment. The incubation period (time taken from catching the bug to becoming unwell) is usually one to two days and people remain infectious for 48 hours after their symptoms have stopped.

Why is it a problem? The infection spreads very rapidly because it is in the vomit and diarrhoea of those affected. Large numbers of people can be affected and it is important to stop the illness from spreading to others.

How can I stop the spread of diarrhoea and vomiting? The most important way to prevent infection is to wash your hands with soap and warm running water: • Before eating food • After going to, or helping others go to the toilet We would also recommend if you have symptoms of viral gastroenteritis: • Please do not visit places where there are vulnerable people e.g. babies or older people including hospitals and care homes. • It is advisable to stay at home until symptoms have settled for 48 hours. If possible try to keep yourself away from other household members. • Make sure the toilet is cleaned regularly with usual cleaning products.

Will I need treatment? Not usually, but sometimes diarrhoea and vomiting can result in dehydration. It is important to drink plenty of fluids in order to prevent this from happening. To help you recover you should: • Drink plenty of fluids – whatever you can tolerate e.g. water, juice, tea, flat pop. Try to have the equivalent of five mugs/ glasses per day. • Try to drink a cup/glass every hour. If you are having trouble remembering, ask a friend or family member to call and remind you. • Drink through a straw if you have one – this can help if you feel sick, or try sucking an ice cube. • If you feel up to it, try a little plain food e.g. toast or a biscuit. • Do not take medicines that stop diarrhoea (eg Loperamide) as this may delay your recovery. • If you usually take laxatives, contact your surgery for advice. Get in touch with your GP surgery if you are feeling drowsy, disorientated or have not been to the toilet to pass urine three times during the day. If your symptoms do not get any better after 72 hours or get worse seek advice from your GP or NHS Direct. NHS Direct – Tel: 0845 4647

Reference: MG3416 Date of publication: Dec 09

This information can be made available in other formats including large print and other languages.

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