Viral diarrhea is actually caused by several different viruses, and the technical name for it is viral gastroenteritis. These viruses get into a person’s stomach through a variety of methods, usually involving contact with an infected person. They inflammation, which eventually leads to vomiting and diarrhea. Most people are able to recover from viral diarrhea quite easily, but the severity of the illness will vary depending on the specific virus involved, and the immune system of the person infected. Sometimes people refer to viral diarrhea as “stomach flu,” but it is not actually related to the flu virus in any way.
Many of the viruses that cause diarrhea are extremely contagious, and transmission from an infected person is one of the most common ways to catch it. Usually these viruses can be transmitted through unwashed hands or sharing food with people. In some areas where water is not properly sanitized, they can catch viral diarrhea in that way as well. The best way for a person to avoid transmitting viral diarrhea to other people is to wash hands frequently, especially after using the bathroom. Some of the best ways to avoid infection are to avoid contact with other infected people whenever possible, and stay away from any potentially contaminated objects.
There is usually not very much involved in the diagnosis of viral diarrhea. Doctors can generally pinpoint a virus as a likely cause based on the symptoms alone. In some rare cases, doctors may need a stool sample, but that is usually reserved for very serious situations, or cases involving young children.
The biggest danger in cases of viral diarrhea is when someone is already dehydrated for some reason. A good example would be someone who works in a physically intensive job where they may sweat a lot. In situations like this, a case of diarrhea has the potential to be dangerous. Most doctors advise avoiding strenuous activities while suffering from viral diarrhea, and increased fluid intake is also usually considered advisable.
For most people, treatment is not really necessary for cases of viral diarrhea. Other than increased fluid intake, doctors usually let the illness run its course, and for viruses that is often the only choice since antibiotics have no effect. There are some medications that can reduce nausea, and for some people those can help deal with the vomiting aspect of a stomach virus. In younger children, there is a slightly greater danger of complications, especially if they have some other problem that makes them prone to dehydration.