Gastroenteritis is a common condition that causes an upset stomach, including diarrhea and abdominal cramping. But gastroenteritis symptoms aren’t limited to your stomach. You can also experience a low grade fever.

A low grade fever is commonly a sign that your body is fighting off the cause of your symptoms and is usually nothing to be concerned about. But if your body temperature continues to rise, you should seek medical attention.

Keep reading to find out more about the connections between gastroenteritis and fever.

Gastroenteritis primarily causes stomach-related symptoms, including:

Typically, symptoms will seem to occur quickly and cause three or more bowel movements in a day.

Gastroenteritis can also cause a fever. Usually, the fever is less than 102°F (39°C). If your temperature exceeds this, the gastroenteritis cause is likely not viral-related, and you should seek medical care.

Having a fever (even a low grade one) usually means your body is building a response to illness. Higher body temperatures make viral or bacterial replication harder. The increase in body temperature can also trigger the immune system to react and kill off the viruses or bacteria.

Some of the most common viral gastroenteritis causes include noroviruses (the most common viral cause) and rotaviruses. But bacteria can also cause gastroenteritis. Examples of these include E. coli and Salmonella.

Is a fever common with gastroenteritis?

Diarrhea is the most common symptom that occurs with gastroenteritis. However, fever can occur with almost all gastroenteritis types. You won’t always get a fever when you have gastroenteritis, but it is possible.

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A fever indicates you’re experiencing illness. Doctors usually consider a fever higher than 100.4°F (38°C). If you have a higher temperature, you have a fever and can likely pass the illness to another.

Gastroenteritis can be highly contagious. The condition can spread if you come in contact with stool or vomit. Improper handwashing or cleansing of surfaces can spread gastroenteritis-causing bacteria or viruses.

You can pass the condition to another if you’re experiencing symptoms. Until your body temperature decreases and your symptoms start to improve, you should practice physical or social distancing to keep them from getting sick.

Even when your fever starts to fall below 100.4°F (38°C) and your abdominal symptoms subside, you can still pass the condition to someone very young, very old, or immunocompromised.

For these reasons, it’s a good idea to continue practicing proper hand hygiene and cleaning potentially unsafe surfaces. Also, you may still want to avoid medically vulnerable individuals for a longer time. Based on your symptoms, you can ask a doctor how long you could still pass on the condition.

How long does a fever last with gastroenteritis?

Fever symptoms will subside within 4 to 5 days after you become ill. If your fever is very high or persists beyond this time, seek medical attention.

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Gastroenteritis is usually a self-limiting condition. Most people with diarrhea will get better within 4 to 5 days of first being ill.

Treating a fever can be challenging when you have gastroenteritis. Your stomach can be so upset that you can’t swallow pills that would reduce the fever. If you can’t tolerate fluids and take medications, you can take an over-the-counter (OTC) fever reducer, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.

Other methods you can use to reduce discomfort from a fever include:

  • drinking cool liquids, such as water, low-sugar sports drinks, or electrolyte-containing rehydration solutions
  • eating popsicles
  • taking a cool (but not cold) bath
  • using a cool compress
  • wearing loose, breathable clothing made of natural fibers, such as cotton

Drinking cool fluids when possible may not only help you feel cooler but can also help minimize dehydration. Dehydration can be a serious side effect of gastroenteritis. Frequent nausea and vomiting can keep you from getting enough fluids.

When to call your doctor

Sometimes, gastroenteritis can make you very ill, including becoming severely dehydrated. Signs you should see a doctor for your gastroenteritis include:

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Gastroenteritis can be unpleasant, and a low grade fever can be a symptom of this condition. A fever over 100.4°F (38°C) could indicate a bacterial cause. Resting and maintaining your fluid balance when possible can help you.

Practice physical or social distancing and good handwashing and hygiene measures to prevent passing gastroenteritis to others. If your fever rises above 102°F (39°C), seek medical attention.