Food poisoning or stomach flu?

Have you ever been struck with a bout of terrible stomach pains that either have you doubling over or cause vomiting and diarrhea? You might have found yourself wondering whether you were unfortunate to acquire it through a meal you recently ate, or maybe if it’s just a bad case of the stomach flu. In either scenario, the body is ridding itself of something that is irritating it. Regardless of the cause, the symptoms are so similar that sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference without laboratory work being done. More times than not, both run their natural course and leave the body after 24 hours. This is hard to accept because no one enjoys sitting in the bathroom all day, unable to eat anything. If you find yourself unable to ditch the infection after 24 hours, complications can occur and medical attention should be sought.

Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is a food borne illness that anyone can get from contaminated food that has encountered a pathogen. This pathogen is usually a bacteria or parasite that causes temporary gastrointestinal problems. The contamination can happen anytime during preparation so it is often very hard to look at a food and know if it should be avoided. The symptoms can range from an upset stomach to the more serious ones including diarrhea, vomiting, fever, stomach cramps, and dehydration; they can appear anywhere from 2 to 24 hours after the pathogen enters the body. Sometimes the only way to know if the illness was caused by food poisoning is to find out if anybody else got sick after eating the same thing. However, problems can arise, especially if the contaminated food came from a restaurant, because the symptoms take different amounts of times in different people to present themselves.

The best possible thing you can do to prevent contamination of food is to follow proper cooking techniques and be sure to cook foods thoroughly and at the right temperature.

Stomach “Flu”
The term stomach flu is actually incorrect; it is not the same as the virus influenza that causes the common respiratory cold. The better term is viral gastroenteritis, and it can be caused by a variety of viruses that infect the stomach and intestines. The virus irritates and/or causes the intestines to be inflamed, which causes the distress and symptoms that are so commonly experienced. The symptoms are almost identical to those of food poisoning: diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, fatigue, and chills. Unlike food poisoning, the stomach flu can be transmitted from person to person, so if you suspect someone around you has it, stay away!

The Solution
Often times, the best treatment is to let the infection, whether food poisoning or stomach flu, run its course. However, be aware of dehydration and how quickly it can occur. Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water, as often as you can during the sickness, and definitely once you are feeling better. This will restore some of the fatigue and fluids that you are undoubtedly feeling. If you can handle it, drink Gatorade to restore the electrolytes that you’ve lost through the combination of diarrhea and vomiting. Get plenty of rest so your body can gear all of its energy toward getting rid of the irritant and making you better. While the symptoms may last only a day, it is completely normal to feel weakened and tired a couple days following the bout of illness. Give yourself ample time to recuperate and don’t rush yourself into strenuous activities. If you suspect the symptoms are getting worse, and they have lasted for longer than 24 hours, seek medical attention.

Last updated on Feb 5th, 2011 and filed under Digestive Health. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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