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Food Poisoning Vs. Stomach Bug: How to Tell the Difference - Legacy ER

  • Category: Symptoms
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Alex Murray
Food Poisoning Vs. Stomach Bug: How to Tell the Difference - Legacy ER

This time of year, germs tend to run rampant. With lots of illnesses going around, it can sometimes be tough to tell exactly what is making you sick. In some cases, symptoms may overlap and you might not be sure whether your indigestion is due to a virus or something you ate. To clear up the confusion, we’ll be discussing some of the differences between food poisoning and stomach bugs in today’s post. Once you have a better idea of what’s causing your illness, you’ll be able to seek out appropriate healthcare services for treatment.

Foodborne Illness

Food poisoning is actually incredibly common. In fact, it’s estimated that 48 million Americans experience foodborne illness every year as a result of consuming contaminated foods or beverages. These contaminants can include viruses, bacteria, or parasites and can cause an incredibly rapid onset of symptoms (sometimes within one to six hours after consumption). Those symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, fatigue, cramps and abdominal pain, muscle aches, dehydration, sweating, and more. Symptoms may last anywhere from a few hours to a few days and will usually clear up on their own. Many times, you may be able to go to an urgent care clinic for diagnosis and healthcare services. Since 92% of urgent care centers maintained wait times of 30 minutes or less in 2015, you should be able to obtain relief fairly quickly. However, in more severe cases that involve high fevers, ongoing vomiting or diarrhea, or bloody stool, it’s important to seek out emergency medical treatment to prevent dehydration and other scenarios.

Stomach Flu

Viral gastroenteritis may be referred to as the flu, though it’s actually not the same as influenza. These stomach bugs are highly contagious viruses that can spread in a few different ways, just like other diseases of this nature. One main difference between stomach bugs and food poisoning is their onset. While foodborne illnesses can take anywhere from an hour to a month to develop, stomach bug symptoms typically present themselves within one to two days of coming into contact with an infected person. Stomach viruses also render individuals contagious for several days after they recover from their illness, which is why infected people have to be so careful about coming into contact with others. Symptoms of stomach viruses may include constipation, diarrhea, fever, weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, headaches, vomiting, muscle cramps, low blood pressure, joint and muscle aches, dizziness, dehydration, and more. While there are some shared symptoms between stomach bugs and food poisoning, these symptoms typically last for much longer (i.e., anywhere from two to 10 days) in stomach virus patients than in those with foodborne illnesses. If you suspect you need stomach flu treatment for dehydration or other severe symptoms, you should seek out immediate care from medical professionals.

In either case, you’ll need to drink plenty of fluids and obtain lots of rest so your body can recover from your illness. You may also want to consider seeing your doctor to obtain a definitive diagnosis. That way, you can take proper precautions for next time or inform your local department of health, if need be, about the potential source of your foodborne illness. Following food poisoning or stomach viruses, stick to a bland diet and avoid spicy, fattening, and dairy-rich foods for the time being. You should also refrain from drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages until you recover.

If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of a stomach virus or foodborne illness and you require healthcare services, we’re here to help. For more information, please contact us today.