Stomach flu symptoms and how they differ from symptoms of other ailments

How to tell the stomach flu from other stomach illnesses

The stomach flu has some pretty nasty symptoms, but they are actually quite similar to symptoms of other gastrointestinal illnesses. Learn about how to tell them apart here.

Symptoms of the stomach flu and how they differ from symptoms of other stomach ailments.


What are the symptoms of the stomach flu?

The stomach flu, or gastroenteritis is a viral infection that isn’t the same as the actual influenza, “real flu” which affects the respiratory system- throat, nose and lungs. The stomach flu actually attacks the intestines and causes symptoms such as watery, (but usually non-bloody) diarrhea. Please note if you do have bloody diarrhea that probably means that you have a more severe infection and should seek medical attention. Other symptoms include abdominal cramps and pain, nausea and/or vomiting and the occasional muscle ache or headache. The stomach flu can also produce low fevers. These symptoms may appear within one to three days of being infected and can last as long as 10 days. People with the stomach flu have increased risks of dehydration because of vomiting, diarrhea and the inability to keep food and/or beverages down. It’s extremely important to keep as hydrated as possible during the flu to avoid extreme dehydration. If you are unable to hold down any food, try sucking on ice chips and drinking small amounts of water or sports drinks. You can also try eating small amounts of bland food until you’re feeling better.

Viral diarrhea

Symptoms for the stomach flu are similar to symptoms of viral diarrhea caused by bacteria such as salmonella and E. Coli or parasites. Symptoms of E. Coli (which is the name of a germ or bacterium that live in the digestive track of humans or animals) are often similar to that of the stomach flu and include stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting. The main difference is that E. Coli usually produces bloody diarrhea. People infected with this often get better in about a week or so, but if not, one must seek immediate medical attention.


Salmonellosis (an infection usually caused by eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry and eggs) and the symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping. Most people recover within 4 to 7 days of being infected. Unlike the stomach flu, those with Salmonellosis do not experience a fever, or any respiratory symptoms. One must be very careful about becoming dehydrated due to vomiting and diarrhea. In the infected person only has diarrhea; they are usually able to recover completely. However, in a small number of person, Reiter’s syndrome can develop, which is a disease that can last for months of years that leads to arthritis.

Intestinal parasites

Symptoms of intestinal parasites include stools that look and smell abnormal. Stomach parasites like amebiasis and giardiasis may cause the stool to be bloody or greasy (unlike the stomach flu symptoms). People with these parasites may also develop diarrhea and gas. Stomach parasites can also cause nausea and a loss of appetite, and vomiting may also occur. Unlike the stomach flu symptoms, intestinal parasites may also cause organ damage, such as the scarring of the liver when the parasites travel through the body. Stomach parasites may also cause damage to brain, lungs and skin as they travel through the body.

It isn’t always easy to distinguish between the stomach flu and other stomach-related illnesses. Be sure to keep track of how you feel, and what you think may have caused your illness so you can treat it in the best way possible. Remember that is symptoms last longer than a week or so, seeking medical attention is strongly advised. 

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Categories: Stomach, Flu

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