Stomach Virus or Food Poisoning? Learn the Signs and Symptoms

You must have heard others talk about stomach flu. But what is it really? Food borne illnesses or diseases are one of the major causes for people getting sick in the United States. They are not only costly, but are also major public health problems. Due to consuming contaminated food or produce, individuals ingest the disease causing microbes and pathogens that cause food poisoning or a stomach bug. However, most people often have difficulty identifying if their stomach condition is related to food poisoning or a stomach bug.

Here is how you can differentiate between food poisoning and stomach virus easily;

Symptoms of Food Poisoning

Most common food poisoning symptoms include:

  • Thirst
  • Stomach cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • General malaise
  • Chills
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Muscle aches

However, in some extreme cases you can also experience;

  • Bloody stool
  • Severe abdominal cramping
  • Vomit
  • A loss of consciousness
  • Shock

Usually, these symptoms can appear after 2-6 hours of contraction or initial exposure. But, the great thing about this is that they don’t last for more than 2-3 days. Food poisoning is a common ailment and can affect anyone at any age regardless of sex and most of the time, it isn’t lethal. However, botulism is a type of food poisoning that can be fatal if it is not treated properly. The botulism-causing virus can produce toxins that can attack the nervous system and cause blurred vision, slurred speech, drooping eyelids and other symptoms.

Symptoms of Stomach Virus

In medical terms, it can be referred to as viral gastroenteritis. A viral gastroenteritis or a stomach virus can be identified easily through the following symptoms;

  • Joint aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting

If you notice one or more of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.

The symptoms usually present themselves after 24-48 hours of initial exposure to the virus. However, the condition can be resolved with proper medical care and medication within a couple of days. However, if the condition persists for as many as 10 days, don’t be frightened as it is quite normal. If the condition persists for longer than that, then contact your doctor immediately to help rule out any further complications.

What Are the Causes of Food Poisoning

You can contract food poisoning by being exposed to infection-causing microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria or parasites that can contaminate food. Generally, Escherichia coli or Staphylococcus are responsible for causing food poisoning. Most people come down with food poisoning by eating contaminated food or undercooked meat. However, meat is not the only food product that is responsible for causing food poisoning and it can also be cause by the following;

  • Soft or unpasteurized cheeses (Brie and feta)
  • Raw and undercooked eggs
  • Raw sprouts
  • Raw fish or oysters
  • Undercooked rice
  • Unwashed vegetables and fruits
  • Contaminated water
  • Unpasteurized beverages, like milk, cider or juice

What Are The Causes Of a Stomach Virus?

A number of viruses can cause stomach bugs among which Norovirus, adenovirus and rotavirus are the most common ones. There were 21 million reported cases of stomach bugs caused by Norovirus alone in a year. It is highly contagious and can occur commonly during the months of November and April. Generally, most people contract a stomach bug from someone who is already sick or from being exposed to contaminated stool or vomit.

How to Treat Food Poisoning

If you have a mild case of food poisoning, then it can be treated easily by taking a rest and taking fever medications. However, in case of severe symptoms, your doctor may prescribe steroids to treat your muscle and heart issues.

How to Treat a Stomach Virus

People who have a stomach bug can suffer from dehydration and in case of  severe dehydration, contact the doctor immediately. Always make sure that the patient is getting plenty of fluids at all times. Adults can also resort to drinking fluids with electrolytes and children should drink any fluid replacement drinks to help keep the body hydrated.

Drink 2-4 ounces of water or fluid every hour and avoid drinking too much fruit juice or sodas that are high in sugars as they will be unable to replenish your body’s lost electrolytes. Avoid any food produce such as spicy food, caffeine, dairy or alcohol as it can upset your stomach even further.