Food Poisoning or Stomach Bug: 3 Ways To Tell

Posted on May 18, 2018

Category: Signs and Symptoms

Feeling sick to your stomach? The stomach flu and food poisoning share nearly identical symptoms. What’s more, they’re both easily caught in group situations when people are sharing food and drink without washing their hands. The key to knowing which one you’re dealing with is understanding how each condition is different.

Here are three ways to tell if you have food poisoning or a stomach bug.

First, let’s talk about how they’re different.

Food poisoning is caused by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with viruses, bacteria, toxins, parasites or chemicals. Common bacteria causing food poisoning includes Salmonella and E. coli.

A stomach bug, on the other hand, is caused by a virus. It’s also known as “acute gastroenteritis” or the stomach flu, although it has nothing to do with influenza. A stomach bug attacks your stomach and intestines, while influenza attacks your respiratory system.

Let’s take a look at three ways to tell the difference:

1.You Get Sick Fast

If you get sick quickly – say, within hours after eating or drinking something – you’re probably dealing with food poisoning. You may experience diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains and cramps or a fever. While the symptoms of a stomach virus can take days to develop, food poisoning symptoms can occur within six hours of eating. Unpleasant but non-threatening symptoms, such as dull aches and headaches, are also common with a stomach bug.

2.You Feel Better Fast

Sickness from food poisoning can last from a few hours to several days, but most cases tend to clear up within 24 to 48 hours. The longer the symptoms persist, the more you should be in touch with your doctor to rule out any complications or other illnesses.

3.Your Symptoms Are Severe

While your stomach bug symptoms might come with a low-grade fever and headaches, food poisoning is usually more severe. Food poisoning will often result in a sharp, stabbing pain instead of the more general discomfort of a stomach bug. You may also experience painful bloating and gas, high fever and muscle aches.

Treatment for nausea, vomiting and dehydration is the same for both illnesses – get plenty of rest and fluids! Contact your doctor or see an Urgent Care clinic if you are unable to keep liquids down, experience a high fever or bloody stool or vomit.

Sioux Falls Urgent Care is open 7 days a week with high-quality, connected care and low wait times. That’s your kind of care!