stomach bug or food poisoning

Stomach Bug or Food Poisoning? Quick & Simple Ways to Tell

Posted On Mar 7th 2018 , Digestive Issues
stomach bug or food poisoning

Have you ever had a bad stomach and wondered if it is a bug or food poisoning? This is actually a very common problem, seeing as the two have very similar symptoms and are often conflated with one another.

How can you tell the two apart? This is an incredibly important question as getting the right answer can potentially prevent further health complications for you or others. Here are a couple of things you should know about the stomach bug and food poisoning.

Stomach Bug

What It Is 

The stomach bug in medical terms is called viral gastroenteritis. This is when your stomach and intestines become inflamed and irritated. This may be caused by viruses such as norovirus, rotavirus, and adenovirus. It is very contagious, and the most common way to catch it is through contact with someone who already has it.


After being exposed to a virus, symptoms may start to appear after 24 to 48 hours. Symptoms include fever, nausea, diarrhea, stomach or intestinal cramps, constipation, weight loss, and joint stiffness.

You are likely to feel better in a couple of days. However, there are those that experience symptoms for a week or longer.


Drink plenty of fluids in order to avoid dehydration. Drink electrolyte-rich drinks as well. Once you are ready for solid foods, Introduce bland foods such as bread, whole grains, and vegetables. Do not ingest dairy, alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods. Antibiotics will not work because of its viral nature.

stomach bug or food poisoning Prevention 

In order to prevent contracting the stomach bug, always keep your hands clean. This is especially true if you have been around a sick person. There are also vaccines that can help you from catching it. A vaccine against gastroenteritis caused by the rotavirus is available in some countries, including the United States. Given to children in the first year of life, the vaccine appears to be effective in preventing severe symptoms of this illness.

In the event that you or your child gets the bug, just stay at home so that other people will not get ill.

Food Poisoning

What It Is 

Food poisoning is ingesting food that may have been contaminated by infectious organisms such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites. People typically get this from raw, undercooked, or unclean food.


Getting food poisoning is way more common than getting a bug. Expect to see symptoms 2 to 6 hours after eating food that has been contaminated. The symptoms may include one or more of the following: muscle aches, fever, eye swelling, headache, diarrhea, general malaise, fatigue, sweating, thirst, and difficulty breathing. Typically, you will not be experiencing these symptoms for longer than two days, and proper hydration and rest is enough to make a full recovery quickly. In some cases, however, medical attention may be required.


Keep yourself hydrated, especially if you are undergoing persistent diarrhea. Rest well and ask your physician at UrgentMED what course of action to take.

walk in clinic long beach Prevention 

In order to keep yourself from experiencing food poisoning, always keep your food and equipment clean. Cook your meats and other food fully, and be sure to keep your hands clean whenever you prepare food or a meal. Immediately refrigerate perishable foods, and no longer eat those that may already be rotten.

Some people are at higher risk to develop food poisoning. They include children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with medical conditions like diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease and anyone with immunodepression.

Experiencing Severe Stomach Discomfort? Visit UrgentMED

The symptoms of stomach bug and food poisoning may be identical. However, it is important to tell what you have in order for you to be able to treat your sickness properly and recover as quickly as possible. That’s why it’s important to visit a medical professional immediately.

If you start experiencing symptoms for long amounts of time, or more intensely, visit one of UrgentMED’s 18 convenient walk-in locations for the best course of treatment – no appointment necessary.

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