It happens to the best of us. You’ve had a great day. You and your hot date checked out the local pho place, and now it’s time to settle in for the night. You find the most comfy pair of sweatpants you own, and plop down on the couch to binge watch Netflix.
Suddenly, it hits. Your stomach begins cramping, and your mouth starts to water. Next thing you know, you’re running to the bathroom, bending over the toilet, and really wishing you’d cleaned the bathrooms the day before (see Shower vs Bath). What went wrong? Why are you suddenly so sick?!
Alright, gross? The point is, sometimes it’s hard to recognize the difference between food poisoning and gastroenteritis. Let’s look at the food poisoning vs stomach flu symptoms, so you can determine what’s up the next time you’re a victim.
What is Food Poisoning?
Food poisoning, simply put, is a foodborne illness. It’s caused by food that’s been contaminated by bacteria or is spoiled. Sometimes it’s caused by food being undercooked. That’s especially true for chicken and pork.
The symptoms of food poisoning make you feel like you’re going to die. Your stomach will begin to cramp, and you may feel like you need to use the bathroom. You may get a bit of diarrhea, and you’ll most likely be throwing up, too.
When you get food poisoning, you’ll probably have a low grade fever, but nothing too serious. You’ll most likely get a rocking headache; you’ll want to sleep but those stomach cramps just won’t let you. Overall, food poisoning is a miserable experience.
Food poisoning usually begins to exhibit itself between one hour and twelve hours from the time you ate that tainted food. But in some cases it can be as long as a month before the symptoms pop up.
It lasts as long as three days, and in most cases it will go away after it’s run its miserable course. Do seek medical treatment for food poisoning. Many people die each year from food poisoning – don’t become one of them.
What is Gastroenteritis?
Ah, gastroenteritis. The stomach flu. Or, as some call is, the stomach bug. We’ll look at food poisoning vs gastroenteritis in just a bit, but first let’s find out a little bit more about the stomach flu.
The stomach flu, like food poisoning, sucks. You’ll have many of the same symptoms, in fact. You’ll have diarrhea, though in the case of gastroenteritis it’s sometimes bloody diarrhea. You’ll have nausea, but you may or may not throw up.
When you have gastroenteritis, your fever will usually be higher than in the case of food poisoning. The stomach flu can be bacterial, viral or parasitic, but no matter which you’ve contracted, your body will be working overtime. Fever will help to kill the little beasts which have overtaken your body.
Like food poisoning, gastroenteritis will run its course then go away. However, it’s very important to note that there are special cases. Those with weakened immune systems, babies, and the elderly may suffer serious side effects from gastroenteritis. The least serious of these is dehydration; the most severe is death.
If any of these groups contract the stomach flu, please seek medical attention. And remember to never, ever give aspirin to a child with a fever. It can be fatal.
Food Poisoning vs Stomach Flu: How to Diagnose
There are ways to determine whether what you have is food poisoning or gastroenteritis. And we’ll be honest with you. Usually you’ll just know. When you and your date got that pho from the food truck, you pretty much knew the risks.
The stomach flu will, generally speaking, take longer for the initial onset. While food poisoning can take as little as an hour, gastroenteritis can take a day to 10 days before it rears its ugly head. The stomach flu usually lasts around 24 hours, and will go away on its own. Be sure that you stay hydrated; you may not want to drink water, but it’s essential that you do so.
To determine whether you have food poisoning vs the stomach flu, you may choose to seek medical attention. Tell your doctor about the past few days – have you eaten anything suspect? Have you visited a hospital? Are your kids’ friends at school also ill?
The doctor may be able to perform tests to determine the source of your illness. Again, the stomach flu will typically go away on its own. Food poisoning, however, may require antibiotics or even intravenous replacement of body fluids.
Food Poisoning vs Stomach Flu: Which is Worse?
Food poisoning and the stomach flu are both wretched beasts. Throwing up is probably the least pleasant sensation in the world, and the stomach cramps associated with both gastroenteritis and food poisoning are the worst.
So which is worse? If we had to choose the worse between food poisoning vs stomach flu, we’d choose food poisoning. First of all, it can be fatal. People who have food poisoning are more likely to die than those who have the flu.
Botulism, in particular is very fatal. It’s a toxin which is paralyzing to your nerves, and can kill you within days. Incidentally, this is the same toxin which people inject into their faces – Botox.
Escherichia coli, more commonly known as E. coli, is another very fatal form of food poisoning. Animals have this bacteria living in their intestines. It doesn’t make them ill, but if the animals are improperly slaughtered, the meat can become contaminated.
The second reason we hate food poisoning more is because it’s so largely avoidable. Hand washing and proper cooking techniques are two easiest ways to avoid food poisoning. Of course, the proper harvest of meats is another.
The stomach flu is a pain in the ass, sure. But food poisoning is loathsome. If you’re feeling badly, it may be best to seek the help of a doctor. She can properly diagnose you, and avoid further complications. And for gods’ sake, please stop eating food truck pho. You’re just asking for it.