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Signs and Symptoms of Food Poisoning Vs. Stomach Flu

By Mia Manning ; Updated July 27, 2017

An estimated 6 to 33 million people in the United States contract food poisoning each year, according to Penn State's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine. Unfortunately, food poisoning is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms resemble the common stomach flu.

Related Symptoms

Comparable symptoms of food poisoning and the stomach flu include fatigue, stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting and fever.

Different Causes

Both food poisoning and the stomach flu fall under the gastroenteritis classification, but their causes are different. Food contaminated with bacteria, such as E. coli or salmonella, is the most common cause of food poisoning. The stomach flu is virus-related and transmits from person-to-person or objects to people.


Symptoms and a thorough medical exam determine a positive diagnosis of the stomach flu. Food poisoning requires further diagnostic methods, such as a stool sample and blood tests.

Symptom Relief

Symptoms of food poisoning and the stomach flu can be relieved with basic self-care measures. Drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration and eat foods that are bland and easy on the stomach, such as toast or applesauce.


Avoid taking aspirin and other pain relievers when suffering with gastroenteritis. If symptoms worsen, such as a spike in fever, increased vomiting or bloody diarrhea, seek emergency care immediately.

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