Stomach gurgling? Feeling feverish? It can sometimes be hard to determine the culprit of your unpleasant symptoms, especially because illnesses can overlap in symptoms. It could be something you ate, or it could result from a virus or bacteria. So how do you know if your illness is something you should seek medical attention for, or just ride out? We’ve broken down the differences between the stomach bug and food poisoning.

The stomach bug is a common viral infection that can affect the intestines. This illness is contracted through close contact with an infected person, which includes sharing food, utensils, and cups, or from touching contaminated surfaces or objects. 

Stomach bug symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Watery or bloody diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy

These symptoms typically last a few days and can appear 1-3 days after exposure. For most healthy people, the stomach flu can clear up on its own, and medical attention is not required. Taking over the counter medications can help alleviate symptoms.

Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating contaminated food, whether it be from bacteria, a virus, or a parasite. Often improperly handled food becomes contaminated during the preparation and cooking processes, and this can happen to many different kinds of foods. While most think food poisoning is caused by improperly cooked or raw meat, food poisoning can be caused by other foods, such as fruits, vegetables, flour, and eggs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms of food poisoning can come on within 6-24 hours after exposure and can last for several days. 

Food poisoning symptoms include:

  • Stomach pains or cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Sweating

As you can see, there are many similarities between the symptoms of food poisoning and the stomach bug that can make it harder to determine which you are sick with. In most cases, both food poisoning and the stomach bug will clear up on their own. However, in more severe cases, you may need to seek medical attention. 

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, contact your physician:

  • Inability to keep liquids down
  • Blood in vomit or stools
  • A temperature above 100.4 °F
  • Symptoms of severe dehydration:
    • Excessive thirst
    • Dry mouth
    • Little or no urination
    • Weakness
    • Lightheadedness or feeling dizzy
    • Diarrhea lasting more than 3 days

We are here when you need us! Patient First is able to evaluate and treat a wide range of illnesses and injuries. You can visit any Patient First center from 8am to 8pm, every day of the year – no appointment is needed.


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