What Differentiates Stomach Flu From Food Poisoning?

Dec 20, 2022 By Madison Evans


When someone suddenly begins vomiting and has diarrhea, the words "food poisoning" and "stomach flu" are sometimes used interchangeably. The symptoms of these two diseases are quite similar, but that doesn't mean they're the same. Most cases of food poisoning may be traced back to ingesting germs that have multiplied in contaminated food or water. Viruses are believed to be the primary cause of stomach flu and are contagious. These norms, however, are not without their exceptions. In the following paragraphs, you will find an explanation of the key differences between these two states, as well as the circumstances in which each is relevant. Food poisoning and the stomach flu have similar symptoms, so diagnosing the right illness can be challenging. The causes of these two illnesses, however, are very different. Ingestion of food tainted by microorganisms like viruses, bacteria, or parasites leads to food poisoning.

Why Do People Get Stomach Flu?

Gastroenteritis is most often referred to as stomach flu. This disease is caused by contagious microorganisms disseminated by close contact with infected people. Bacteria and viruses can do this, although viruses are much more common. The norovirus, adenovirus, astrovirus, and rotavirus are all examples of such viruses. Coughing and close contact are the primary vectors for the propagation of these viruses. Stomach flu is not caused by the same influenza virus that generates the typical seasonal flu. Before doctors understood how illnesses were spread, they called the flu by that catchy name. That's why it was a metaphor for any pandemic.

What Are The Reasons For Food Poisoning?

When someone becomes unwell due to eating tainted food, they are said to have food poisoning. Animal and plant-based products are often contaminated with bacteria and other organisms, leading to severe disorders. This may happen when food is undercooked, improperly handled, or left out at room temperature for an extended period.

The Following May Lead To Food Poisoning:

Intestinal lining infections are caused by salmonella, campylobacter, listeria, and E. coli.


Food poisoning occurs because certain bacteria produce poisonous chemicals. Certain poisons may even remain in prepared food. Examples include the bacterium Staphylococcus, the bacterium Bacillus, and botulism.

Parasitic Infections:

In addition to bacteria and viruses, parasites like Cyclospora may enter the body via tainted food.


Similar to bacterial contamination, viral contamination of food is also possible. Examples include norovirus, which is rather prevalent.

The symptoms of both food poisoning and gastroenteritis are similar. This is because certain organisms which thus cause food poisoning may also move from person to person in the same way that other infections do. For example, norovirus outbreaks are prevalent and aren't necessarily caused by tainted food. Furthermore, one may still infect others with the virus even after being ill from food poisoning.

What Are The Signs Of Food Poisoning And The Flu?

The symptoms of gastroenteritis and food poisoning are quite similar. So it's understandable that one would get them mixed up or think they had the wrong one. Some of the warning signs are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Fever

The source of your symptoms may be obscure, but there may be hints. Food poisoning symptoms can appear suddenly. Symptoms of food poisoning often manifest within a few hours after ingestion. In addition, food poisoning and bacterial infections can cause bloody diarrhea. However, gastroenteritis symptoms tend to progress more gradually. Over a day or two, the patient's condition may worsen. Gastroenteritis and gastrointestinal symptoms may also cause congestion, coughing, and general body pains.

How Do You Cure Food Poisoning And The Stomach Flu?

Food poisoning and gastroenteritis have comparable signs and symptoms and respond to similar treatments. It is not uncommon for individuals to get well without special care and return to their routines at home. On the other hand, if your symptoms are severe, you may want additional assistance as you recover from your illness. In terms of treatment, several options may be considered:


The elderly and infants, in particular, are at a higher risk of dehydration. Therefore this measure might be useful. They are also useful for rehydrating someone unable to keep anything in their stomach.


Antiemetics are effective in reducing vomiting and feeling nauseous. Ondansetron, metoclopramide, and prochlorperazine are just a few examples.


In certain situations of bacterial infections, this might be helpful. Antibiotics, however, are seldom required.

Most people with food poisoning or gastroenteritis report feeling better within a day or two. Medical attention should be sought when symptoms persist for more than a week or worsen.


Symptoms of food poisoning and stomach flu are quite similar. Determining which illness is at play when someone exhibits both vomiting and diarrhea may be challenging. But for most healthy individuals, therapy and recovery are unaffected by the specific virus or bacteria (or their source). Both have similar warning signals, symptoms, and justifications for medical attention.

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