Gastroenteritis is caused by an irritation or inflammation of the stomach, according to WebMD.
The inflammation may be caused by a virus or bacteria, including norovirus – the winter vomiting bug – E.coli or shigella.
The condition could be caused by poor hand hygiene. Not washing hands after using the toilet can spread infectious bugs from person to person.
It’s not uncommon for gastroenteritis to spread to every member of the family because it’s so contagious.
“Gastroenteritis usually causes mild symptoms in most people and clears up after a few days without any specific treatment,” said WebMD.
“Gastroenteritis can be more serious in babies, children and older people, and can also cause dehydration, which may require medical treatment or admission to hospital.
“Those also at risk of gastroenteritis symptoms include pregnant women, infants, and undernourished and immune-compromised people.”
About 20 per cent of people in the UK develop at least one episode of gastroenteritis every year.
Symptoms of gastroenteritis include abdominal cramps, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Patients may also gain a fever and headache, as well as develop swollen lymph glands.
In the most severe cases, dehydration could cause the condition to become life-threatening.
People thinking that they may have gastroenteritis and dehydration should seek medical help. Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, light-headedness, feeling thirsty, decreased urine, and a sticky mucus membrane in the mouth.
Gastroenteritis patients are advised to drink plenty of fluids, and to eat as normally as possible.
Eating easily digestible foods – include toast and rice – may make eating easier, and are less likely to irritate the inflamed stomach.
“It is advised to eat small, light meals if you can to maintain the balance of nutrients in the body,” said LloydsPharmacy Pharmacist Kajal Ruda.
“You should eat as soon as you are able to, but avoid fatty, spicy or heavy foods. Plain foods such as whole meal bread and rice are ideal to try first.”