Symptoms of a stomach upset by virus and one that is troubled by food poisoning are quite similar so it is easy to get confused and seek the wrong treatment. Here we look at some of the signs that help you identify which form of stomach upset ails you.
Stomach virus: This is most commonly caused by a related group of viruses called norovirus. These viruses are highly contagious and can spread rapidly from infected people to others. They are mainly spread by eating food or drinking liquids that have been contaminated with the virus, or by having direct or indirect mouth contact with the infected person or surface with the virus on it. It could also be spread by coming into contact with vomit or stool of an infected person.
Stomach virus infection could last up to 10 days and some of the more common symptoms associated with it are: Diarrhea that may be watery or, in case of serious infection, bloody; a loss of appetite; nausea or vomiting; stomach cramps, muscle aches, or weakness; low-grade fever; headaches; dizziness.
Treatment and prevention for stomach virus include: Letting the stomach settle by trying not to eat any solid food for several hours; sucking on ice chips or taking small sips of water. People should also drink plenty of liquids so as to ensure they are not dehydrated. Remember to avoid juice or other beverages that can make diarrhea worse.
Ease back into eating. Start with bland easy-to-digest food such as soda crackers, toast, and rice. Stop eating if nausea returns. Until the stomach feel better, it is best to avoid certain substances, such as dairy, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and fatty or highly seasoned foods.
Food poisoning: This is caused by eating food that contains bacteria, viruses, or parasites, which can get into food at various points during production of food. Salmonella and E. coli are two common types of bacteria linked to food poisoning.
Cross-contamination, when harmful bacteria transfer from one surface to another, is often another cause of food poisoning. Raw and ready-to-eat foods such as salads are particularly at risk of contamination.
Bacteria can also grow rapidly when foods such as meats, dairy products, and sauces are not handled or cooked properly or they are not kept at the right temperature. The bacteria and other harmful organisms can produce poisonous substances that cause inflammation of the intestines when eaten.
Food poisoning symptoms, which can occur within six hours of eating, include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and cramps, or a fever. Sickness from food poisoning can last from a few hours to several days, but most cases clear up within a day. People can usually suspect food poisoning if others who consumed the same food are also ill, or they ate unrefrigerated food.
Salads, raw or undercooked poultry, raw eggs, seafood, and other dairy-based products are high-risk foods for food poisoning. People can help prevent food poisoning by making sure meats, salads, dressings, and other foods are kept at the right temperature. Generally make sure you do not eat refrigerated food that has been kept out for more than two hours.