Gastrointestinal flu: how long is it contagious?

Anyone suffering from gastrointestinal flu quickly wonders when vomiting and diarrhea will stop. When you can go back to work or your child can go back to kindergarten depends on how long the causative agent is contagious. This can be very different for viruses and bacteria.

In this article

The pediatrician speaks of gastroenteritis; the disease is simply called gastrointestinal flu. As a rule, those affected have contracted other sick people. Children become infected particularly quickly through contaminated hands or toys. Decide how long there is a risk of infection >

Viruses and bacteria trigger gastroenteritis

Known germs that can trigger gastrointestinal flu are in Germany for example:

  • rotavirus,
  • noroviruses,
  • E.coli,
  • Campylobacter,
  • Shigella,
  • Salmonella as well
  • staphylococci

If your child has been in the tropics, other possible pathogens are possible. Please always report to the pediatrician about stays abroad so that he can extend the laboratory examination accordingly.

That’s how long the gastrointestinal flu is contagious

The period in which your child can pass on the pathogen to other people in the area begins when the child becomes infected. The symptoms develop during the so-called incubation period, but are not yet visible. So you do not notice that your child is ill and you can still infect yourself with the pathogen. However, the number of germs is still low. It increases by leaps and bounds with the onset of symptoms and thus the risk of infection increases. Does your child have vomiting and diarrhea survived, it briefly excretes a small amount of viruses or bacteria via the bowel movements until the immune system has eliminated all intruders. Now the patient is no longer contagious.

Some Examples for how long diarrhea germs were found in the stool after recovery:

  • noroviruses: over two weeks
  • E.coli: over three weeks
  • Campylobacter: over four weeks
  • Shigella: over four weeks

Hygiene measures reduce the risk of infection

Now you understand why, even a few days after the symptoms of gastrointestinal flu have subsided, it makes sense to pay particular attention to washing your hands after going to the toilet. Disinfect the toilet regularly to prevent the spread of germs in the family. Since most gastrointestinal infections last only a few days, the period is manageable.

Some children vomit so frequently at the beginning of the disease that the main part of the pathogens leave the body immediately. But even without obvious diarrhea, germs can remain in the stool for a few days and infect other family members. Only in exceptional cases does the pediatrician check after recovery whether viruses or bacteria can still be found in a stool sample. For healthy children, it is best to use the above average values ​​to assess when your daughter or son is no longer contagious.


If vomiting and diarrhea have subsided, there are usually no germs in the body after a short time. Most children and adults can only infect other people with gastrointestinal flu in their environment for a few days to about two weeks. In rare cases, however, the pathogens survive in the body and the affected patients continue to excrete them with the stool, even though they no longer show symptoms.

From about ten weeks after gastroenteritis, doctors speak of a permanent eliminator if they continue to find germs in the patient’s stool. The problem can last for weeks, months, or years stay. Since the people concerned are mostly unaware of the situation, they pose a risk to those around them. Nevertheless, long-term eliminators occur only very rarely, based on the number of gastrointestinal flu in Germany. The risk of contracting Salmonella in this way is low. Only one to four percent of patients with Salmonella become permanent exporters. The risk increases with age.

Schönau et al .; Pediatric integrative, conventional and complementary therapy; urbane & Fischer, Munich 2005
Stephan Illing, Martin Claßen; Clinical Guide to Pediatrics; urbane & Fischer, Munich 2009
Burkhard Rodeck, Klaus-Peter Zimmer; Pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition; Springer Verlag, He >


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Christina Cherry
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