The causes of stomach flu and food poisoning are totally different. One of them is generated from a virus, while bacteria or toxins cause the other.
Food poisoning and stomach flu have some similarities to each other, but there are also several differences to be aware of. It is necessary to start different treatments depending on the reason that causes the discomfort; therefore, it is important to make a correct diagnosis.
We will show you how both conditions differ, not only from the point of view of their causes but also of the consequences and prognosis. Bear in mind that in many cases, a professional’s intervention will be necessary; otherwise, the subject’s health status could be put at risk.
What causes viral gastroenteritis?
The stomach flu is usually caused by a virus that causes inflammation of the digestive tract, causing stomach and intestine problems. It is common to experience vomiting, diarrhea, and pain from this class of infectious diseases.
It should be noted that it is a contagious disease transmitted between subjects due to close contact. It is transported by the droplets that are expelled when speaking. Also, it is possible to experience an infection through the use of contaminated objects.
Several viruses can trigger the problem. Noroviruses usually affect younger children, as do rotaviruses. This is evidenced by a study published in the journal Praxis. However, astroviruses and adenoviruses are much more common in the adult public. Even some types of coronavirus could also generate these processes.
Symptoms of the stomach flu
The stomach flu usually causes abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. However, it is relatively common that chills and fever accompany these ailments in an attempt by the body to kill the virus that causes the disease. Also, muscle pain is common.
What to watch out for are the symptoms of dehydration. Sometimes, the patient cannot ingest fluids without vomiting, which is why they are prone to a deficit in the water balance. Keep in mind that dehydration can seriously endanger the individual’s life, so you must be aware of the associated symptoms.
What causes food poisoning?
Unlike the stomach flu, food poisoning is caused by bacteria or protozoan. The origin is a microorganism or its toxin that irritates and inflames the mucous membranes of the digestive tract and generates, in many situations, symptomatology similar to that described.
Bacteria of the genus Clostridium cause the most frequent poisoning. However, it is also very common for the microorganism behind the problem to be Salmonella.
According to a study published in the journal Przeglad Epidemiologiczny, the number of cases affected by this bacterium has increased in recent years. It is found mainly in meats and products derived from them.
The symptoms caused by food poisoning are very similar to those of the stomach flu in certain cases. It is common to experience diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, and dehydration. However, these tend to last less, although it will depend on the severity of the poisoning and the number of bacteria or toxins ingested.
However, some poisonings can cause the failure of other organs. The liver is usually the main affected. This mainly suffers when mycotoxins from fungi are consumed. It has even been shown that these toxins are capable of increasing the risk of cancer or hepatitis.
When to go to the doctor?
Whatever the cause of the discomfort, it is important to see a doctor when the symptoms do not stop within 24 hours or worsen over time. Also, if you suffer from skin changes, headache, or intense fever.
Also, the specialist himself will offer solutions to stop continuous vomiting in the form of drugs inoculated r intramuscularly. These are usually very effective for the body to begin to tolerate fluids and reduce dehydration risk.
If experiencing a loss of consciousness or severe pain, the emergency service should be contacted immediately.
However, both stomach flu and food poisoning usually subside after a few hours. Typically, symptoms do not last for more than 2 days. Despite this, digestive complications may arise, so it is necessary to monitor that no blood appears in the stool at any time.
How are they diagnosed?
To establish the diagnosis of food poisoning or stomach flu, it will be necessary to take a fairly complete medical history. The specialist will ask about the foods consumed in the last hours to assess whether they present a microbiological risk.
It will also be necessary to know if any close person with whom you had contact is in the same situation. In general, diagnostic tests as such are not usually performed, except in the most serious cases. A serology or a stool culture could even be ordered to know precisely which microorganism is causing the damage.
The recommended treatments, regardless of the reason that causes the pathology, will be aimed at seeking remission of the symptoms and preventing dehydration.
The first thing will be to gradually increase the volume of water, as long as it does not cause a reflex of nausea or vomiting. From here on, easily digestible solid foods such as white rice and chicken will be included in the diet. Those products high in fat or fiber will be the last to be reintroduced.
The most serious cases may require the administration of an antiemetic to stop vomiting. Even intravenous serum could be inoculated if dehydration symptoms are generated, although this already corresponds to hospital management.
In the case of a viral problem, it is possible to include a vitamin C supplement to strengthen the immune system. If what causes the disease were a bacterium or a toxin, the use of some drugs that block its effects or that eliminate the pathogen could also be considered. An example would be antibiotics in the most severe cases.
How to prevent them?
Prevention is a key point when avoiding stomach flu and food poisoning. To avoid suffering them, it is essential to guarantee good hand hygiene and proper handling of food before and during consumption. Respecting the cold chain and good conservation practices will be essential.
Similarly, not making close contact with those who have developed gastrointestinal symptoms can also save you from contracting the illness caused by the virus as long as these are the cause.
However, it is quite difficult to carry out since these microorganisms are usually very contagious before generating symptoms in the subject.
Stomach flu and food poisoning, two different problems with similar symptoms
As you have seen, stomach flu and food poisoning share many similarities in the symptoms they generate. However, they are caused by different microorganisms, so the treatment proposed in the most intense manifestations of the disease is also different.
The best thing is to bet on prevention and guarantee that hygiene measures are observed between people and at the level of food handling. Once the first symptoms have appeared, it is important to know when to go to the doctor and avoid dehydration.