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Stomach Flu Or Food Poisoning: Which One Do You Have?

When you are exploding out of both ends, you don't really care whether you have the stomach flu or food poisoning. And while the symptoms of both are pretty similar, it pays to know the culprit behind your suffering, as the latter is much more sinister than the former.

So here's everything you need to know about stomach flu and food poisoning, so you are better prepared the next time.


#1 The Causes Of Food Poisoning Are A Dime A Dozen!

From dangerous bacteria like Clostridium botulinum, Salmonella, and E. coli to viruses like the Rotavirus, you can get food poisoning on ingesting a wide range of microorganisms, all of which are quite deadly.

And they can end up in your body through the following ways:

  • Through vegetables that were contaminated in the soil even before they were harvested and sold.
  • From eating raw food, especially undercooked meat and sausages.
  • Drinking unpasteurized milk.
  • Consuming spoiled food, like spoiled eggs.
  • From eating processed products that were left outside of the cold storage for too long.
  • By eating food that was cooked or served in utensils previously used by someone suffering from food poisoning.

#2 Stomach Flu Is Caused By Viruses

Stomach flu is not the same as the flu that you call the sniffles. It's viral gastroenteritis and is caused by viruses like the Norovirus.

And oddly enough, you can have food poisoning and stomach flu at the same!

Here are the various ways through which you can pick up the stomach flu:

  • Touching a surface that was contaminated by someone suffering from stomach flu.
  • Direct physical contact with an infected individual.
  • And consuming contaminated food.

#3 The Symptoms Of Both Food Poisoning And Stomach Flu Are Similar

While both these conditions cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal pain, fever, muscle pain, and headaches, there are some differences that can help you differentiate between them.

For example, severe food poisoning can cause you to poop out bloody stool, while the stomach flu is more likely to cause projectile vomitus.


#4 Food Poisoning And Stomach Flu Have Different Time Lines

Food poisoning will strike you down within hours of ingesting the contaminated food or incubate in your body before showing up out of the blue after a week or so. And then the illness lasts for a few days or many days. There really isn't a fixed pattern, although the ones that operate fast are deadlier.

The stomach flu operates in a different fashion. It stays low for a day or two and then BAM! You are exploding out of both ends for the next two days.


#5 You May Need To Be Hospitalized If You Show These Symptoms

While both stomach flu and food poisoning can be anywhere on the spectrum from mild to severe (although severe is more common when it comes to food poisoning), if you show the following symptoms, you need to get yourself admitted at the nearest hospital.

  • The frequency of vomiting is too high and you have been unable to drink anything without vomiting for at least 24 hours.
  • You can see blood in your stool or vomitus.
  • You have severe abdominal cramps.
  • You are extremely dehydrated - signs include dizziness, dark yellow urine, dry mouth, and excessive thirst.
  • You have fever that is not coming down.
  • You are suffering from diarrhea since the last 3 days.
  • You can feel tingling sensations in your arms and body and your vision has started to blur - a sign of neurological damage associated with certain types of food poisoning.

#6 Once Burnt, Twice Shy: How To Prevent Food Poisoning Or Stomach Flu

Stomach flu and food poisoning take a toll on our body. So if you want to avoid contracting them in the first place, here are certain guidelines that can help.

  • Wash your vegetables thoroughly before you eat them.
  • Store processed meats and other products in the refrigerator at the right temperature.
  • Cook your food properly and make sure it is above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, as this temperature kills all pathological microorganisms.
  • Do not eat stale food taken out of the refrigerator without heating it above 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Microorganisms multiply the fastest when you allow hot food to cool down. So consume your meal immediately.
  • Don't thaw meats at room temperature. Instead, use the defrost mode of the microwave, or boil some water and use the steam to defrost the meat.
  • Throw away food items you have a gut feeling may be spoiled.

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Story first published: Friday, February 16, 2018, 15:59 [IST]
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