Vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps- the symptoms of a stomach bug and food poisoning are the similar, but the causes are very different. Determining which one you have is important when it comes to treating it properly.

Stomach bug causes

The stomach bug is also referred to as viral gastroenteritis. There are several viruses that can cause the stomach bug, with the most common being rotavirus, norovirus, and adenovirus.

All three viruses are highly-contagious and affect millions of Americans each year. The viruses are spread through direct person-to-person contact, touching a surface contaminated with the virus, or eating food that was prepared by and contaminated by a person infected with the virus.

Stomach bug symptoms

Symptoms of the stomach bug typically appear 24-48 hours after exposure to the virus. Symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach cramps
  • Joint pain/stiffness
  • Headache
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Dehydration

Stomach bug treatment

Symptoms of the stomach bug can be treated at home if they aren’t severe. Treatment includes getting plenty of rest, fluids, following a bland diet, and taking medications for pain and fever. Symptoms can last anywhere from a few days up to a week. Severe symptoms, or symptoms that last longer than 10 days, may require further treatment by a doctor.

Food poisoning causes

Food poisoning is caused by consuming food or drink that’s been contaminated by viruses or bacteria. The most common viruses or bacteria include norovirus, rotavirus, Salmonella, listeria, and Staphylococcus aureus.

Not everyone will exhibit food poisoning symptoms after exposure. Those most likely to develop symptoms are young children, the elderly, and those who are immunocompromised.

Food poisoning symptoms

Symptoms of food poisoning usually occur 2-6 hours after exposure and include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Blood in the stool
  • Dehydration

Food poisoning treatment

Mild cases can usually be treated at home with rest, fluids, and fever-reducing medications. Severe cases may require hospitalization and IV fluids. Bacterial food poisoning can be treated with antibiotics.