The main complication of viral gastroenteritis is dehydration a severe loss of water and essential salts and minerals. If you’re healthy and drink enough to replace the fluids you lose from vomiting and diarrhea, dehydration shouldn’t be a problem.
Infants, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems may become severely dehydrated when they lose more fluids than they can replace. Hospitalization might be needed so that lost fluids can be replaced through an IV in their arms. Dehydration can rarely lead to death.
The best way to prevent the spread of intestinal infections is to follow these precautions:
- Get your child vaccinated. A vaccine against gastroenteritis caused by the rotavirus is available in some countries, including the United States. Given to children in the first year of life, the vaccine appears to be effective in preventing severe symptoms of this illness.
- Wash your hands thoroughly. And make sure your children do, too. If your children are older, teach them to wash their hands, especially after using the toilet.
Wash your hands after changing diapers and before preparing or eating food, too. It’s best to use warm water and soap and to rub your hands well for at least 20 seconds. Wash around cuticles, beneath fingernails, and in the creases of the hands. Then rinse thoroughly. Carry sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer for times when soap and water aren’t available.
- Use separate personal items around your home. Avoid sharing eating utensils, drinking glasses, and plates. Use separate towels in the bathroom.
- Prepare food safely. Wash all your fruits and vegetables before eating them. Clean kitchen surfaces before preparing food on them. Avoid preparing food if you’re sick.
- Keep your distance. Avoid close contact with anyone who has the virus, if possible.
- Disinfect hard surfaces. If someone in your home has viral gastroenteritis, disinfect hard surfaces, such as counters, faucets, and doorknobs, with a mixture of 5-25 tablespoons (73 to 369 milliliters) of household bleach to 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water.
- Avoid touching laundry that may have been exposed to a virus. If someone in your home has viral gastroenteritis, wear gloves while touching laundry. Wash clothing and bedding in hot water and dry them in the hottest setting. Wash your hands well after touching the laundry.
- Check out your child care center. Make sure the center has separate rooms for changing diapers and preparing or serving food. The room with the diaper-changing table should have a sink as well as a sanitary way to dispose of diapers.
Take precautions when traveling
- Avoid ice cubes because they may be made from contaminated water.
- Use bottled water to brush your teeth.
- Avoid raw food including peeled fruits, raw vegetables, and salads that have been touched by human hands.
- Avoid undercooked meat and fish.