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man clutching his stomach

The difference between the stomach flu and food poisoning

By Jayne Morgan, M.D.
Executive director of Health and Community Education

If you’re sick to your stomach, you may wonder if you have food poisoning or the stomach flu. The symptoms are so closely related, it can often be difficult to discern. Let’s start with some basics.

What is the stomach flu?

First of all, the “stomach flu” is actually known as gastroenteritis by your health care professional. It is a result of an inflammation of your gut (your stomach and intestines).

The stomach flu (or gastroenteritis) is caused by a virus.

What is food poisoning?

While food poisoning can also be caused by a virus, other culprits include parasites and bacteria, with bacteria being the most common causative agent.

Additionally, food poisoning is much more common than the stomach flu. It is estimated that roughly 48 million people experience food poisoning each year.

How to tell the difference between food poisoning and the stomach flu

It can be difficult to tell which one you, a friend or a family member may have. However, here are nine ways to help you tell the difference between food poisoning and gastroenteritis (stomach flu).

Remember, some quick telltale signs that you might be a victim of food poisoning are headache, sweating and, often, the violent start of the symptoms.

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay informed.

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