It’s that time of year when illness spreads like jam on toast. Have you been hit by a stomach virus? Or maybe it was food poisoning? It’s good to know which it is, so you know whether or not you are contagious or if other people shouldn’t eat the mystery meat in your fridge.
CausePassed by a virus that attacks the intestines; you catch it by coming in contact with someone who is infected, or by touching something he or she has touched. This virus can also be passed on through contaminated food or water.You get it by eating contaminated food that contains infectious organisms, bacteria (like E. coli), viruses, or parasites.SymptomsWatery diarrheaNausea and/or vomitingAbdominal crampsFeverMuscle achesHeadache
Symptoms appear one to two days after exposure to the virus and usually last for one to two days but can last for up to 10 days.Abdominal pain, which can be quite severeLoss of appetiteWatery diarrheaNausea and/or vomitingFeverFatigue
Symptoms can show up within hours of eating contaminated food, but exposure to certain contaminants may not cause symptoms until a few weeks later. Sickness lasts from one to 10 days.ComplicationsDehydration (caused by excessive vomiting and diarrhea)Dehydration (caused by excessive vomiting and diarrhea)Exposure to certain types of bacteria may prove fatal to unborn babiesCertain strains of E. coli can cause kidney failureMethod of diagnosisA doctor will ask about your symptoms or take a stool sample. If they see bacteria, they know it’s not a bug.A doctor will ask you questions about food you’ve eaten and how long you’ve felt symptoms and will perform tests such as checking your blood and stool. She may also check for parasites.TreatmentRestReplace lost fluidsGradually begin to eat bland foods such as toast, rice, and potatoes.Avoid dairy products, caffeine, spicy foods, and fatty foods.Replace lost fluidsIf symptoms are severe, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics.PreventionAvoid coming in contact with an infected person or anything he or she has touched. Wash your hands thoroughly and often, especially before you eat and after you use machines at the gym. Don’t share personal items like cups, utensils, or towels.Keep your hands, cooking surfaces, and utensils clean. Keep hot food hot and cold food cold. Throw out food that has been sitting out or foods you’re not sure about. Cook foods safely and thoroughly. For more tips, check out this post on preventing food poisoning.