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Difference Between a Stomach Bug and Food Poisoning

Do You Have a Stomach Bug, or Was It That Food You Ate?

It's that time of year when illness spreads like jam on toast. Have you been hit by a stomach virus? Or maybe it was food poisoning? It's good to know which it is, so you know whether or not you are contagious or if other people shouldn't eat the mystery meat in your fridge.

Related: 7 Foods to Eat When You're Sick

Stomach Virus Food Poisoning
Cause Passed by a virus that attacks the intestines; you catch it by coming in contact with someone who is infected, or by touching something he or she has touched. This virus can also be passed on through contaminated food or water. You get it by eating contaminated food that contains infectious organisms, bacteria (like E. coli), viruses, or parasites.
Symptoms
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache

Symptoms appear one to two days after exposure to the virus and usually last for one to two days but can last for up to 10 days.

  • Abdominal pain, which can be quite severe
  • Loss of appetite
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

Symptoms can show up within hours of eating contaminated food, but exposure to certain contaminants may not cause symptoms until a few weeks later. Sickness lasts from one to 10 days.

Complications
  • Dehydration (caused by excessive vomiting and diarrhea)
  • Dehydration (caused by excessive vomiting and diarrhea)
  • Exposure to certain types of bacteria may prove fatal to unborn babies
  • Certain strains of E. coli can cause kidney failure
Method of diagnosis A doctor will ask about your symptoms or take a stool sample. If they see bacteria, they know it's not a bug. A doctor will ask you questions about food you've eaten and how long you've felt symptoms and will perform tests such as checking your blood and stool. She may also check for parasites.
Treatment
  • Rest
  • Replace lost fluids
  • Gradually begin to eat bland foods such as toast, rice, and potatoes.
  • Avoid dairy products, caffeine, spicy foods, and fatty foods.
  • Replace lost fluids
  • If symptoms are severe, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
Prevention Avoid coming in contact with an infected person or anything he or she has touched. Wash your hands thoroughly and often, especially before you eat and after you use machines at the gym. Don't share personal items like cups, utensils, or towels. Keep your hands, cooking surfaces, and utensils clean. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Throw out food that has been sitting out or foods you're not sure about. Cook foods safely and thoroughly. For more tips, check out this post on preventing food poisoning.
Image Source: ShopStyle Photography
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zebe zebe 2 years
Well im on Day 2 of the most hideous evil bug ive ever had!! cant determine whether its food poisening or bug if im honest because , i did eat some chicken on tues which i cooked for longer than needed...... same symtoms food poisen can mimmic signs of gastric flu!! currently lied in bed getting up every fifteen mins wiv very bad guts!! havent vomited though??? im even thinking have i got appenixcitus!!! ive never gone into day 2 with bug..... i hope my little boy doesnt get it because i nearly rang n ambulance for myself yesterday!! and have had to send for help with shopping!!! been dying on the couch with a 2 year old , behaving wilder than usual !! please relent u evil thing...... :(((
Stevie14971844 Stevie14971844 2 years
ok so I have a little of both things. what does that mean??
Sherrybabie Sherrybabie 3 years
I have some insight to add to this discussion. My husband and I were traveling from San Diego to NJ. He woke up (after a business dinner) throwing up. The pain was unbearable and I had to call an ambulance. He had NO fever and NO blood in stools or vomit. He was given pain med's, nausea medication and sent back to hotel with directions to drink plenty of liquids. He had dinner with approximately 20 other people, 1 person had a mild case of diarrhea. I was convinced he had food poisoning, based on the above right? 2 days later, we had driven to the Amish country and on the way back, I started to feel very bad. I do have Crohn's Disease but it was in remission. It started with pain and nausea and eventually I had diarrhea (watery stools) and threw up and thought I was going to die. Fortunately, I carry "emergency" pain medication to try to keep me out of the hospital. My pain hit 9.5 and I thought I was going to die. We BOTH ate the exact same thing and he didn't get sick. So I KNOW you can have INTENSE pain with the flu. Regardless this sucked. The doctor did do lab tests on him and everything was normal. Singed, Wattery in NJ
Pasta-Lana Pasta-Lana 4 years
Rice water is usually good for digestive ailments, (so is the rice if you can stomach it). The bland starchy water not only hydrates but also helps calm stomachs and gives you a tiny bit of nutrients.\u00a0
katvetrano katvetrano 4 years
Thanks for posting this-last night was literally wondering the difference between the two (turned out to be FP)..how convenient that a site I read all the time posted this so recently!
Chelsea25 Chelsea25 6 years
I had a bad experience with food poisoning the day before my birthday last year. My boyfriend took me out to celebrate at Gordon Ramsey at Claridges in London where I thought I'd be adventurous and have quail as an appetiser. I even went as far to say I wanted it well done. The waiter said Its like chicken it can only be eaten if its cooked right through. So I get my quail and start eating and im not happy because it feels rubbery and too soft. Waiter again says its fine. I had about 4 bites in total and thought no way I cant eat this. The next day my actual birthday I was throwing up and had a fever and the worst cramps. It lasted about 6 hours and after id brought everything up - and out- yuck I know, i felt better but drained. Even managed to go dancing that night. I now only order fish when I eat out. The restaurant has since lost its one michelin star so i couldnt been the only one who thought it crap!
VicVicVictooriaa VicVicVictooriaa 6 years
i have food poisoning right now...it's the worst thing ive ever experienced.
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