Stomach virus vs. flu: What is the difference?4 min read
Stomach flu is an infection of the stomach and intestines, whereas influenza (flu) is a respiratory infection of the throat, nose, and sometimes lungs.
Stomach flu is typically due to a virus, but it can also be the result of bacteria. The condition is different from food poisoning and can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Influenza infections cause flu symptoms that include a sore throat, runny nose, and body aches.
Keep reading to learn more about the similarities and differences between stomach flu and influenza.
Stomach flu is an infection in the intestines and stomach. Doctors refer to it as
Although some people may refer to viral gastroenteritis as stomach flu, the viruses that cause influenza are different from those causing gastroenteritis.
People may develop stomach flu symptoms rapidly, but they typically last
The following table gives an overview of both conditions:
The symptoms of stomach flu
- watery diarrhea
- abdominal pain or cramping
Some people may consume too few fluids during stomach flu, which can lead to dehydration.
The symptoms of flu
- fever and chills
- sore throat
- runny or blocked nose
- body aches
Vomiting and diarrhea can occur in both stomach flu and influenza. However, with influenza, these symptoms are
Norovirus is the
Certain bacteria can also
Influenza viruses cause flu. Doctors divide influenza viruses into either A, B, C, or D. Influenza A and B viruses are the
Flu viruses can pass between people through tiny, infected droplets. These droplets can spread when people with the virus sneeze, cough, or talk.
People do not always need treatment for stomach flu or influenza, but home care can relieve the symptoms.
People may recover from stomach flu on their own without any medical treatment. Home remedies to ease the symptoms include replacing lost fluids and electrolytes with:
- fruit juice
- sports drinks
- saltine crackers
Children, older adults, and those with a weakened immune system or severe diarrhea will require oral rehydration solutions. Some people will also require diarrhea treatments, such as Imodium.
People who have blood in their stools or fever may have a bacterial infection or parasites that require treatments from a doctor, such as antibiotics.
- staying at home and resting
- drinking plenty of water to replace lost fluids and prevent dehydration
- avoiding close contact with others
- washing hands regularly with soap and water
In more severe cases, a doctor might prescribe antiviral medications.
Getting the yearly flu vaccine is also an important measure to prevent flu and its complications.
People with stomach flu should contact their doctor straight away if they have the
- diarrhea that lasts longer than 2 days
- a change in mental state, such as severe fatigue or irritability
- a high fever
- frequent vomiting
- 6 or more loose stools in a day
- severe pain in the rectum or abdomen
- black or tarry stools
- blood or pus in stools
- signs of dehydration
People with influenza should contact a doctor for the following symptoms:
- difficulty breathing
- shortness of breath
- persistent chest or abdominal pain
- dizziness, confusion, or difficulty waking
- severe muscle pain or weakness
- worsening cough or fever
Stomach flu is an infection of the stomach and intestines. Viruses, such as norovirus, are usually the cause of stomach flu. Symptoms of stomach flu include vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea.
Influenza is a respiratory infection. It is the result of influenza viruses, which cause symptoms that include a sore throat, runny nose, and sometimes a fever.
Both conditions require resting at home and drinking plenty of fluids. In severe cases, medical treatment is necessary and may include antiviral medications or antibiotics.