Food Poisoning vs. Flu

Difference between Food Poisoning and Flu One can easily mistake Flu and food poisoning because these two have…

Difference between Food Poisoning and Flu

One can easily mistake Flu and food poisoning because these two have similar symptoms such a as feeling nauseated, vomiting and also diarrhea. The disease causing microorganism of flu is the RNA viruses which infect the patient’s respiratory system. Other variants of the flu viruses cause gastrointestinal infections that result to both vomiting and diarrhea. The correct name for this condition commonly knows as stomach flu is viral gastroenteritis.

Though food poisoning is usually in most cases less sever than flu, it can sometimes lead to death but due to their similar symptoms, they are hard to distinguish.


This virus affects the respiratory system and can easily be mistaken for common cold. These respiratory infections are sometimes fatal. Stomach flu on the other hand causes gastrointestinal disturbances. The virus that causes the flu is different from that which causes influenza.

Viral gastroenteritis occurs when one ingests contaminated foods especially in poor sanitation areas. The fact the virus enters the body through contaminated food has resulted to it being considered food poisoning. The condition is also treated in a similar manner to food poisoning by drinking a lot of water and taking a lot of rest.

Food Poisoning

When not treated quickly, this otherwise mild condition can become fatal. Symptoms of food poisoning are severe stomach pain, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The symptoms of food poisoning appear within a very short time from the time of eating the contaminated food in all those who eat the food.

The contaminant in the food determines the severity of food poisoning. In most cases, food poisoning occurs as a sudden outbreak affecting with the symptoms ranging from mild to severe among the victims. The severe food poisoning is fatal mostly through diarrhea.

Distinction between Flu and Food Poisoning

These two can be differentiated based on;

Common Symptoms

Nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting are common symptoms in the two. The patient first reports headaches, fatigue or even fever then the rest follows. When treated promptly, full recovery is possible within 48 hours. The severe cases can lead to fatal dehydration of the body.

The Causative agent

Bacteria are the cause of food poisoning while viral gastroenteritis is caused by a virus.

Severity of condition

Though both are mild at onset, Food poisoning if not treated promptly is dangerous to the lives of high risk groups including children and the elderly leading to death without quick medical intervention.

The Preventive measure

Because the causative agents are introduced orally, the preventive measures are common for both conditions. These include cooking food properly and then keeping it in hygienic places. Food poisoning is usually caused by improper cooking or contaminated food. This can be minimized by taking enough precautionary measures while cooking.


Dehydration is the cause of fatalities and as such, treatment is in the way of taking lots of fluids to prevent body dehydration. Water is lost when one looses water through diarrhea when the body tries to get rid of the bacteria from the body.

Diagnosing the condition

In the absence of microbiological tests fro severe cases, doctors can tell that the symptoms represent food poisoning by observing similar symptom in all who report consuming the same food.

Incase of severe symptoms, medication directed at killing the specific agent that is causing the symptoms should be administered. However, in mild conditions, the same medication is given for either condition. The treatment includes fortified drinks that help dehydrate the body and replenish the patient’s energy are advisable as well as fluid intake.  With water only, a patient can recover within 24 hours.


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