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What is a gastrointestinal infection? 

There are a number of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that cause gastrointestinal (GI) infections. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Trusted Source, diarrheal diseases account for 1 in 9 child deaths worldwide. It affects 2,195 children every day — more than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined.

Although they can continue for as long as 14 days, GI infections usually last a few days. They’re characterized by abdominal cramps and discomfort followed by diarrhea. Other symptoms might include:

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • fever

  • loss of appetite

  • muscle aches

  • dehydration

  • headache

  • mucus or blood in the stool

  • weight loss

Common causes of gastrointestinal infections include:

  • Bacterial

  • Viral

  • Parasite

When to see your doctor?


See your doctor right away if you:

  • have a fever above 104°F (40°C)

  • have an inability to keep liquids down for 24 hours

  • are vomiting for more than 48 hours

  • are vomiting blood

  • are becoming dehydrated: excessive thirst, dry mouth, little or no urine (or deep yellow urine), extreme weakness, lightheadedness or dizziness

  • have blood in your bowel movements


See your pediatrician right away if your child:

  • has a fever of above 102°F (39°C)

  • is experiencing a lot of discomfort or pain

  • appears lethargic

  • is very irritable

  • has bloody diarrhea

  • appears dehydrated

To tell if your child is dehydrated, you can monitor how much they’re drinking and urinating and compare to their typical amount.


Get your baby to their pediatrician right away if they:

  • have been vomiting (not just normal spitting up) for more than several hours

  • have a dry mouth

  • haven’t had a wet diaper in six hours

  • cries without tears

  • has severe diarrhea

  • has bloody stools

  • is unresponsive

  • is unusually drowsy or sleepy

  • has a sunken soft spot on the top of their head

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