What is the Difference between Food Poisoning and Stomach Flu?

Food poisoning and stomach flu seem like two names for the same illness. They both involve the digestive system and pretty much have similar symptoms. You tend to feel nauseous. You have diarrhea and you throw up. But how do you know what causes all of these discomforting symptoms? What is the difference between food poisoning and stomach flu?

Food Poisoning: Definition and Symptoms

Food poisoning is a general term for any food-borne illness. There are a number of causes of food poisoning, but as long as the cause of the illness is due to the food or drink you ingested, it is called food poisoning. The pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi) living in the food that you eat and the toxins released by some of these pathogens and the toxic chemicals that may have been added or formed in the preparation of the food all cause food poisoning.

The symptoms of food poisoning may vary depending on the cause of the poisoning. In some cases, the symptoms may be more on diarrhea and less of vomiting. While in an emetic case, you vomit quite more often compared to defecating. Other cases of food poisoning could lead to severe symptoms of headaches, fever, body aches, abdominal cramps, loss of appetite and weight loss. The severity of the symptoms also depends on the severity of the infection. How fast the symptoms appear and how long they last are also variable conditions depending on the cause of food poisoning.

Stomach Flu: Definition and Symptoms

Stomach flu is another term for viral gastroenteritis. Viral gastroenteritis is the inflammation of the stomach and the intestines due to a viral infection. The most common viruses that cause stomach flu are Astrovirus, Enteric Adenovirus, Norovirus, and Rotavirus. These four viruses are the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis and are usually contacted through contaminated food and water.

The symptoms of stomach flu are mainly abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Other symptoms of the disease may also appear. Symptoms such as chills, excessive sweating, fever, clammy skin, muscle pain, stiff joints, incontinence, weight loss, loss of appetite, and rarely even vomiting blood. These symptoms usually appear within 4 to 48 hours after being exposed to the contaminated food and water.

Differences between Food Poisoning vs. Stomach Flu

Stomach flu is a type of food poisoning. Since food poisoning is a general term for all infections brought about the consumption of contaminated food and drinks and stomach flu is due to consumption of food and/or water contaminated with viruses, it is easy to conclude that stomach flu is one type of food poisoning. This is the main difference between food poisoning and stomach flu. Food poisoning is a generic term while stomach flu is a specific illness.

The symptoms of food poisoning are also much more diverse as there are many possible causes of food poisoning. All of the symptoms of stomach flu mentioned above can be considered as symptoms of food poisoning as well. The onset of the symptoms as well as the duration of food poisoning varies. Some symptoms may appear within a few minutes after consuming the contaminated food or drink or may show several hours after the ingestion. Stomach flu symptoms, on the other h and, may appear within a day or two and may last from a couple of days to a week.

Treatment for food poisoning also differs on a case-to-case basis. In order to treat food poisoning, one must know the cause so that the medications can be targeted in removing the cause of the disease. However, in some cases of food poisoning, there are no medications to actually remove the toxins or kill the pathogens causing the illness. Treatments for stomach flu may be similar to the treatments for food poisoning. Drugs may be prescribed by your doctor to manage the viral infection.

For all cases of food poisoning, this includes stomach flu, rehydration is vital. There is a great amount of water loss due to diarrhea and vomiting. And these waters should be replenished. And so, oral rehydration salts may be given to patients to prevent dehydration and to ensure the electrolyte balance in the body.

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