Are your muscles aching and you’re running up a fever? Feel like throwing up and have stomach cramps? You may have the flu…or maybe it’s the stomach flu. Still can’t tell? These two illnesses are commonly confused with each other and it’s important to find out which is which to get the right treatment. Read on to find out the difference between the two.
The Difference between Flu and Stomach Flu
Influenza, or most commonly referred to as the flu, is a viral infection that is similar to the common cold, but is considered worse. There are only a handful of viruses that cause the flu which is why vaccines have been made available to prevent people from catching them. Severe cases of the flu can also lead to worse illnesses like pneumonia which can be life threatening if left untreated.
The stomach flu, on the other hand, has nothing to do with influenza or the viruses that cause them. The correct medical term for this condition is gastroenteritis. It refers to the irritation or inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract caused by a bacteria, virus or parasites found in food that hasn’t been cleaned or cooked properly, or in unclean water. Lactose intolerance or the inability of the body to process dairy products can also cause gastroenteritis to occur.
Influenza and Gastroenteritis: Symptoms and Treatment
The symptoms of the flu can feel like coming down with a bad cold; but other symptoms can, and will soon pop up. A feeling of fatigue and severe muscle ache followed by a high fever is not uncommon in cases of the flu. With the flu being a viral infection, taking lots of fluids and bed rest can do the trick, but in severe cases anti-viral medication may be administered to reduce the severity of the symptoms especially in people who are at risk of developing complications.
Gastroenteritis symptoms may differ depending on what caused it. The common symptoms that occur in cases of the stomach flu include, but are not limited to, stomach pain and cramps, nausea and vomiting, fever, headache, and in some cases, swollen lymph nodes. Dehydration happens in severe cases of gastroenteritis. Treatment for gastroenteritis depends on what caused it, but the best thing to do is to stay hydrated. Studies show that the anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil and flaxseed oil can help, but one should consult a doctor first before trying out any home remedies. If one is unable to take in fluids or retain them due to vomiting or diarrhea, it’s time to seek medical attention for emergency treatment.
Although most cases of influenza and gastroenteritis can be managed by bed rest, lots of fluids, and home remedies, there are cases wherein immediate medical attention is needed. When symptoms persist for a longer period of time than what is usual, it’s not a good idea to wait it out. Go to the emergency room immediately to get the necessary medical attention.