Stomach Flu Vs Food Poisoning: Which One Is It
- Lauren Stuttaford
Summer is usually the time when youre socializing with loved ones, enjoying poolside meals, or even picnicking in the park. During the merrymaking, we often forget about a serious concern food poisoning. Or could it actually be stomach flu? Here is everything you need to know about stomach flu vs food poisoning.
Difference Between Food Poisoning And Stomach Virus
It is very easy to confuse two or more health ailments as the same when they are not only different but also have very different and unrelated causes. Unless you have a wound or a bruise, a pain in any part of the body can be anything. It can be tissue inflammation, pain in the nerves, muscle spasm, skeletal injuries or it could be referred pain. In case of referred pain, the area where you feel the pain is not exactly where the problem is.
Two of the most perplexing health ailments are food poisoning and stomach virus. It isnt that these are affecting people every day or anyone would have a chronic problem. Also, neither food poisoning nor stomach virus is the most common problem with the digestive system or gastrointestinal health. Gas or bloating, flatulence, general indigestion and constipation are much more common. There is a substantial difference between food poisoning and stomach virus. Let us explore the same so you can take the appropriate measures.
Food Poisoning And Foodborne Illnesses
The medical term for food poisoning is foodborne illness, which makes sense because youre not being poisoned by food, but rather youre affected by germs that are living on the food. You can contract food poisoning from food that is mishandled or cooked improperly. This may happen when a meal is left out on the table for too long, not refrigerated properly or handled by someone who touched an unclean surface or didnt wash their hands. Eating certain raw or uncooked foods can also lead to food poisoning.
Some examples include:
- Raw shellfish
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Stomach Virus Or Food Poisoning How To Tell The Difference
Food poisoning may sound much more sinister than stomach virus, and it sometimes is, but both illnesses can cause similar symptoms. You may experience diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain with either. A common concern with both is dehydration, which may be life-threatening if not addressed.
But one form of food poisoning, botulism, can affect your nervous system and may be fatal if not treated appropriately. Other types can cause kidney damage or developmental delays in infants and young children .
So it makes sense to understand the differences between these common stomach ailments and to know when you should call the doctor or seek urgent medical help.
The experts at Chesapeake ERgent Care are very familiar with both and have provided information that may help you spot the difference between a stomach virus and food poisoning. Theyve also included a list of concerning signs and symptoms to watch for that may require a trip to the office or, in some cases, immediate medical attention.
Getting Over Stomach Viruses & Food Poisoning
The path to feeling better is roughly the same even if stomach viruses are significantly different than food poisoning. As with most illnesses, staying hydrated is key. Since stomach viruses and food poisoning tend to result in your body expelling fluids, youll want to replenish those fluids with water, electrolyte drink or tea.
Remember to stay away from alcohol and coffee, as these drinks are dehydrating and will keep you passing very watery diarrhea.
When you have a stomach illness, your digestive system tends to be sensitive. That means youll want to eat foods that are bland and easy to digest, and maybe even limit yourself to consuming liquids until you feel that you can handle solid food. Even if you love spicy food, its best to put down that hot sauce as spicy foods can be hard on the stomach while digesting. When in doubt, and looking for tried & true home remedies, you can follow the BRAT diet:
Other easy to digest foods include potatoes, vegetables, and plain yogurt .
When food poisoning is caused by bacteria, sometimes antibiotics are prescribed. Unlike with viruses, bacteria can be fought with prescription medication, so be sure to seek medical attention, such as an urgent care. If antibiotics are not needed, staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest is usually your best bet to feeling better.
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What To Do If You Have Food Poisoning
If you are vomiting or have diarrhea, the most pressing concern is dehydration. But you may want to avoid food and fluids for a few hours. As soon as you are able, begin taking small sips of water or sucking on ice chips.
Besides water, you may also want to drink a rehydration solution. These solutions help replace electrolytes, which are the minerals in your body fluid that conduct electricity. Theyre necessary for your body to function.
Rehydration solutions are especially helpful for:
- people who have a compromised immune system
- people who have a chronic illness
When you can eat solid food, begin with small amounts of bland foods that include:
You should contact your doctor when you first experience symptoms if you:
- are older than 60 years of age
- are an infant or toddler
- are pregnant
- have a weakened immune system
- have a chronic health condition like diabetes or kidney disease
If youre taking diuretics and develop food poisoning, call your doctor and ask if its safe to stop using them.
In general, you should see a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- diarrhea lasting longer than two days, or 24 hours in an infant or child
- signs of dehydration, including extreme thirst, dry mouth, reduced urination, lightheadedness, or weakness
- bloody, black, or pus-filled stool
- bloody vomit
- a fever of 101.5 F or higher in adults, 100.4 F for children
- blurred vision
You can prevent food poisoning in your home by following the basics of food safety:
Whats The Difference Between Stomach Flu And Food Poisoning
One minute youre feeling fine and the next minute your stomach starts to feel uneasy. Weve all experienced an uncomfortable sudden onset of nausea, which can lead you to think: Is it something I ate or is this a stomach bug? While food poisoning and stomach flu are similar illnesses, there are a few differences. Heres what to look for to determine which condition you may have.
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How Is Food Poisoning Treated
Food Poisoning can usually be treated at home. Most cases will resolve themselves within 24 hours. Much of the treatment for Food Poisoning is the same as Gastroenteritis. The crucial difference, however, comes from when youre best advised to visit your nearest DOCS Urgent Care or the ER.
If you suffer from an autoimmune disease and contract Food Poisoning, please seek immediate medical attention. Food poisoning can be considered life threatening and requires immediate treatment when:
- Blood in stool or urine
- Fever higher than 101.5°F
- Diarrhea that lasts longer than 72 hours
- Severe dehydration
- Difficulty speaking or seeing
- Repeated vomiting preventing replacement of fluids
How do I prevent Food Poisoning?
The simplest answer is to be mindful of what you eat, and how you prepare your food.
Wash your hands often. Wash hands before cooking or cleaning, and always after handling raw meat.
Clean dishes and utensils frequently, especially if they have had contact with raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs.
Use a thermometer when cooking. Its good to be mindful of the temperature you are cooking meat at, to avoid under-cooking. If you are using frozen foods, be sure to cook them for the full recommended time on the package.
Beef requires at least 160°F .
Poultry requires at least 165°F .
Fish requires at least 145°F .
Refrigerate perishable foods within 2 hours. Keep your fridge set to around 40°F , and your freezer at or below 0°F .
Give It A Day Or Two And Then Call Us
Regardless of whether you have food poisoning or you picked up a stomach bug, you should visit 1st Choice Urgent Care if your symptoms last more than two days. Trying to tough it out much longer likely means youll just feel sick that much longer. You could also put yourself at risk of developing other health problems.
Our urgent care center is open every day between 8am and 9pm You can alsorequest an appointment with one of our doctors. Come see us so we can put you back on the path to wellness.
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How Do You Know If You Have The Stomach Flu Or Food Poisoning
How do I know if I have the stomach flu?
- Specific tests for the stomach flu usually are not ordered, and the diagnosis is suggested by the signs and symptoms described to the doctor by the patient, for example, pain or cramping in the stomach, diarrhea, and fever.
- Stool samples can be sent for cultures or other tests to identify the exact organism that is causing the illness, but this usually is not done unless the patient has blood in his or her stool. If a patient is vomiting blood or has blood in the stool, he or she should contact a medical doctor or health care professional immediately.
How do I know if I have food poisoning?
- The diagnosis of food poisoning also usually is made by a doctor observing the patient for the typical signs and symptoms of this type of poisoning , and specific tests are usually not ordered. The history of the disease is important, since multiple people who ate or drank the same foods or beverages may become ill.
- Stool cultures are one of the few ways to pinpoint the type of bacteria, virus, fungi, or prion that caused the poisoning.
The Exact Treatments For Food Poisoning And Stomach Virus Also Vary
Food poisoning calls for antibiotics if the symptoms are severe. The lost fluids due to vomiting and diarrhea must be replaced. Patients are often administered saline and glucose. Stomach virus symptoms are relatively milder and one must rest, also take saline and glucose among other recommended or prescribed fluids, steadily switch from a liquid diet to a solid diet which can include rice, toast and potatoes. Fatty and spicy foods, caffeine and dairy products should be avoided.
Both food poisoning and stomach virus infections can be avoided. One must be careful not to come in contact with anyone who may have been infected by a stomach virus. To avoid food poisoning, cleanliness and hygiene are the two most significant measures, especially in the kitchen and for cooking appliances and utensils.
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What Causes The Stomach Flu
Noroviruswhich you just read aboutis also one of the most common causes of the stomach flu, leading to between 19 and 21 million viral gastroenteritis infections each year, per the CDC. So yes, the stomach flu can be a type of food poisoning.
You can pick up viruses that cause the stomach flu by touching a surface that someone with the infection touched or having direct contact with them. You can also get it through food, though, which brings us to the trippiest part of this entire conversation
You can technically have food poisoning and the stomach flu at the same time. Lets say you pick up a case of viral gastroenteritis after a dinner of norovirus-contaminated scallops. That basically means you got the stomach flu from a food-based source. Is it food poisoning or the stomach flu? Theres not really a clear line you can draw, Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., a board-certified infectious disease physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells SELF.
Food Poisoning Vs The Flu: When To Worry
So when should you rush off to the doctor, and when should you just sit back and wait for your illness to resolve itself? It can be hard to figure out whats an actual emergency. Seek medical attention immediately if any of the following circumstances apply to you:
- Your symptoms last for more than a few days
- There is blood present in your stool
- You are experiencing a fever
- You are experiencing severe stomach/abdominal pains
- You have been eating wild mushrooms
- You are pregnant or
- You are experiencing symptoms that are not associated with regular food poisoning or the flu, such as bleeding, severe pain, or vision distortion.
If your symptoms are limited to diarrhea, moderate abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, then you can wait a few days to see if your illness resolves. Often, both food poisoning and the flu will resolve on their own.
Wash vegetables, fruits, and other foods before eating them.
How To Prevent Stomach Virus And Food Poisoning
A stomach virus is the most common infection affecting about 21 million people every year. The good news is, it is preventable and here are a few guidelines:
- Maintain proper hygiene throughout the day especially when handling food. Wash your hands after using the washrooms, changing diapers, and before food preparation.
- Clean your vegetables well and cook food thoroughly
- Wipe the contaminated surfaces with alcohol to disinfect them
- Avoid contact with the infected person.
- Stomach flu vaccination is also available and can help to reduce the severity of the symptoms
When it comes to food poisoning, you can easily prevent it by avoiding raw or uncooked food such as salads and eggs. Plus, wash your hands before handling raw meat and ensure it cooks thoroughly to get rid of the bacteria.
What Natural Home Remedies Foods Drinks Special Diets Or Medications Relieve Symptoms Or Cure These Infections
What natural, home remedies, foods, drinks, special diets, or medications relieve symptoms or cure the stomach flu?
- Natural or home remedies for the stomach flu include steps to ensure that the patient is taking in enough fluid and electrolytes to replace what is lost through vomiting and diarrhea.
- Adults with the infection can drink sports drinks, but these should not be used for a child or infant. There are special fluid and electrolyte solutions or ice pops for a child, toddler, or infant suffering from dehydration.
- It’s important to drink lots of liquids in small amounts, and not force large amounts of fluid. Juices and colas are not recommended because the sugars they contain can be harsh on the stomach.
- Once you are able to eat, try to eat foods that are bland, and that are unlikely to be irritating to the stomach.
- Try foods such as:
- Plain yogurt
- Fresh apples, and bananas
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So You’re Feeling Terrible But Why Knowing The Reason For Your Upset Stomach Is The First Step To Feeling Better A Nurse Explains The Difference Between Food Poisoning And A Stomach Bug
Its a question no one ever wants to have to ask: Is this food poisoning or a stomach bug? Your stomachs starting to feel uneasy, but where did it come from? Either way, food poisoning and stomach bugs are miserable at best and dangerous at worst.
Both types of upset stomach can feel similar, but they have a few key differences to help you know what is going on, and more importantly, when youre going to get some relief.
Its Probably Food Poisoning If
Your symptoms came on suddenly. Food poisoning can happen quickly, and its not uncommon to go from feeling normal one minute to running to the bathroom the next.
You have a high fever. The contaminated food can cause flu-like symptoms including a high fever, body aches and chills.
Its fast and furious. Food poisoning is truly miserable, but at least its quick. It usually takes your body about 24 to 48 hours to rid itself of the illness.
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What Is The Brat Diet
BRAT stands for bananas, rice, apples, and toast. While you do not need to eat only those four foods, the idea is to eat foods that are easy to digest, low in fiber and high in starch so that you can replace the nutrients and calories that you have lost.
Avoid food and drinks that are high in sugar like cookies or soda, as well as high-fat and high-fiber food that can be hard to digest. Itâs also a good idea to stay away from dairy products, spicy, or greasy foods until youâve fully regained your strength.
Food Poisoning Vs Stomach Flu Symptoms
Because food poisoning and stomach flu have such similar symptoms, it can be tricky to figure out which one youre dealing with.
Food poisoning symptoms
- Headache or body aches
Both may present with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, and a low-grade fever, says Dr. Lee. However, stomach flu tends to involve more nausea and vomiting, while food poisoning may lead to more diarrhea.
Bacterial food poisoning affects more of the colon, not small intestines, which causes the difference in symptoms, says Dr. Hanauer, who also suggests paying attention to the onset and duration of your symptoms.
Food poisoning usually comes on rapidly and the symptoms should only last between 1 to 3 days, he says. On the flip side, stomach flu often has a slower onset because the virus needs time to infect the host , which takes 1 to 2 days. Symptoms then last between 3 to 10 days, says Dr. Lee.
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