How to Know the Difference Between Stomach Flu and Food Poisoning

How to Know the Difference Between Stomach Flu and Food Poisoning

The case of stomach flu vs food poisoning is similar to that of flu vs the common cold, in that we have two medical conditions that have many similar symptoms and are therefore easy to confuse, and can be hard to know if you have one or the other. Stomach flu, also called the stomach bug or, viral gastroenteritis in more technical circles, is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines and is caused by a viral infection. On the other hand, food poisoning is caused by consuming food that is contaminated. These two, as mentioned above, usually have the same sort of symptoms and as such can be difficult to tell apart. This article should therefore come in handy as it will look to highlight some of the ways these two differ, with the help of the subject matter experts over at, with the hope it will help you know how to differentiate between the two for the next time you are presenting with symptoms that show you may be suffering from one of them.

While it is true that these two actually have lots of similarities in terms of their symptoms, they also have some key differences as far as symptoms are concerned that can help differentiate them. As far as the stomach flu is concerned, symptoms usually appear within 24 to 72 hours of being exposed to the virus, and in most cases usually resolves itself after a couple of days.  If the symptoms persist however, you should seek medical attention. On the other hand, the symptoms for food poisoning usually develop within hours of eating the contaminated food. Most cases of food poisoning also resolve by themselves after a few days. Though stomach flu may take longer to develop, it usually goes away quicker while food poisoning usually more often than not lasts longer. There are also some symptoms that are likely to occur in one case as compared to the other. For instance, while bloody diarrhea is likely to be a sign of food poisoning, projectile vomiting and cramping in the stomach are likely to be due to the norovirus hence are indicative of the stomach flu. The stomach flu is also more likely to cause headache and fever. The next point of difference we are going to look at is when it comes to the differences in their causes. Here, as is covered in detail over at, stomach flu is caused by a number of viruses with the most common ones being the norovirus as well as the rotavirus among others. Food poisoning on the other hand is caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites and not only viruses as is the case for stomach flu. Bacteria such as Salmonella are among the most common culprits when it comes to food poisoning.

The next area of difference we are going to look at as far as these two are concerned is on their transmission. On one hand, stomach flu is highly contagious and can spread very quickly, with people infected with the virus causing the bug being extremely contagious from when they will contact it and even a few days after they recover. You can therefore contact stomach flu from either eating or drinking contaminated food or drinks respectively, or by having direct or indirect mouth contact with either someone who is infected or a surface with the virus on it, as is covered in detail over at Coming into contact with stool or vomit of infected persons could also lead to you contacting the virus. Transmission of food poisoning on the other hand is mainly as a result of eating contaminated food, although cross-contamination could occur from surface to surface where the harmful organisms may get transferred from one surface to the next.

The next point of difference we are going to look at as far as these two are concerned is on the treatment. As far as the stomach flu is concerned, the key, as per the subject matter experts over at, is to avoid dehydration and seek medical attention if you are presenting with any symptoms of the same. Take in lots of water as well as fluids that replenish lost electrolytes. You should also avoid foods and drinks that may upset your stomach such as alcohol, spicy foods, dairy products and so forth. Once you feel like you are ready to start eating like normal again, start with bland foods such as cereals, vegetables, breads, bananas among others. When it comes to food poisoning, while mild cases may be treated with rest and fever-reducing medications, if you have severe symptoms such as blood or pus in stool, signs of dehydration, signs of botulism, food poisoning after having traveled out of the country especially to a developing country among others, then you should contact your doctor. Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics for severe cases of bacterial food poisoning. The next point of difference is on their prevention, and here when it comes to the stomach flu, you should ensure you practice good hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting any surfaces that may be potentially contaminated as well as keeping a distance from those with the virus and ensuring they use separate utensils. Prevention of food poisoning on the other hand involves keeping your hands and utensils clean, cooking foods such as meat, eggs and seafood thoroughly, ensuring that foods that need to be refrigerated including any perishable foods are refrigerated, as well as being careful when eating out in restaurants and eating only in places you trust.

Hopefully, the above discussion will help you differentiate between stomach flu and food poisoning, with more on this and other related topics to be found over at the ever reliable


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