Gastroenteritis

Symptoms of nausea/vomiting/diarrhea may be caused by many different reasons—viruses, bacteria, or various medical conditions.

The following plan is recommended for nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea:

  • Frequent hand-washing — especially after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food. Wash hands for 15 seconds using warm water and soap.
  • Diabetics should follow their emergency sick plan for insulin doses and fluids.
  • Replace fluids lost from vomiting/diarrhea and fever with liquids (i.e. soup, bouillon, Gatorade, gingerale, apple juice, popsicles, water.) Avoid diet drinks until symptoms subside—you need some sugar (carbohydrates) for energy. Fluids should contain sugar and electrolytes (sodium and potassium). Alternate sips of several ounces or water with sips of Gatorade/juice, soup.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Foods that sometimes help include: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, crackers.
  • Fever may be treated with medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Do not take more than the prescribed dose. Avoid aspirin.
  • Allow your body to cool if you have a fever. Wear loose clothes and wash head/face/upper body with lukewarm water for evaporation cooling. Do not use rubbing alcohol sponge baths.

Emergency evaluation is needed if any of the following occur:

  • Abdominal pain is increasing or severe.
  • Blood is noted in vomitus or diarrhea.
  • Symptoms are getting worse at any time or do not improve in 24 hours.
  • Fainting or dizziness is noted, despite trying to replace fluids. (You may need intravenous fluids to replace fluid lost with vomiting/diarrhea/fever.)
  • You have not urinated in 8 hours or urine is dark yellow or brown/red.

Your evaluation may include:

  • Urine and/or blood tests to examine electrolytes and kidney/liver function.
  • Stool cultures to check for infections and/or parasites.
  • IV fluids to replace fluids lost with vomiting/diarrhea.
  • Consultation with a gastroenterologist if your symptoms are prolonged or severe.