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What's the Difference Between the Stomach Flu and the Flu?

The arrival of fall also signals the arrival of flu season. There are various strains and types of flu. The types of flu that are most common can vary from year to year, which is why it is so important to get an annual flu shot at your nearest FastMed clinic. There are also various viral and bacterial infections sometimes referred to as the flu that typically occur around the same time of year as influenza outbreaks, but are not related to the flu virus in any way.

What Is Stomach Flu?

Stomach flu, which is actually gastroenteritis, occurs when a virus, bacteria, or parasite causes the lining of the intestines to become inflamed and irritated. Sensitivities to certain foods, such as dairy, can also cause similar symptoms. Common bacterial causes of gastroenteritis include shigella, salmonella, campylobacter, and E. coli. Common viral causes include norovirus, cytomegalovirus, rotavirus, and adenovirus. The bacteria and viruses that cause gastroenteritis are normally spread through poor hand hygiene and improper food preparation and sanitation techniques. Parasitic forms of gastroenteritis are most common in parts of the world without adequate water sanitation.

What Are Common Stomach Flu Symptoms?

The most common symptoms of gastroenteritis include stomach pain and cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Depending on the cause, you may also experience a low-grade fever, a headache, and swollen lymph nodes. Most cases of gastroenteritis resolve within a few days. If you have a fever or experience multiple bouts of vomiting or diarrhea, it is important to drink extra fluids to prevent dehydration. To avoid causing further irritation to the stomach and intestines, it is best to eat a bland diet of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast until your symptoms resolve. You should see a doctor immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Blood in your vomit or stool
  • A decrease in urine output, you can’t produce tears, you have a dry mouth, or you are constantly thirsty
  • A fever over 100°F in children or 102°F in adults
  • Vomiting or diarrhea that lasts for more than 48 hours
  • Abdominal swelling or pain in the lower right quadrant of the belly

What Is Influenza?

The actual flu virus affects the respiratory system. Most people with the flu recover in one to two weeks; however, the virus can cause severe complications and even death in otherwise healthy individuals. The elderly, infants, pregnant women, and individuals with certain chronic health conditions are particularly vulnerable to developing flu-related complications.

What Are Common Flu Symptoms?

Common flu symptoms include body aches, low-grade fever, cough, chills, fatigue, sore throat, and a runny or stuffy nose. In most cases, the symptoms develop quite quickly compared to the common cold, which typically has a gradual onset. You should seek immediate medical attention if you develop any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • A bluish skin tone
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve temporarily, but then worsen

Protecting Yourself From Various Types of Flu

There are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself from gastroenteritis, the flu, and other illnesses that make their rounds during the fall and winter.

  • Practice good hand hygiene. This includes washing your hands before eating or preparing food; after using the restroom, helping others use the restroom, or changing diapers; after caring for someone who is ill; or after being in public places where germs can linger on surfaces.
  • Don’t prepare or serve food to others if you have a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Get a flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone six months old and older get the flu vaccine by the end of October. Even if you got the vaccine last year, you need it again since the formulation changes year to year to target the strains that are anticipated to be the most prevalent during the current season. Although the vaccine is not 100 percent effective in preventing all cases of the flu, it is the best defense available. If you get the flu in spite of having the vaccine, the symptoms should be less severe and you will be less likely to develop complications. The vaccine uses a deactivated version of the virus, so it is impossible to get the flu from the vaccine.

FastMed Has You Covered for Flu Prevention and Treatment

Whether you need your flu vaccine or treatment for the flu or gastroenteritis, you can trust FastMed. We have convenient clinic locations throughout Texas, North Carolina, and Arizona with extended hours to serve you. No appointment is required, and we even offer online check-in and e-registration to serve you faster.

About FastMed

FastMed Urgent Care owns and operates more than 100 locations across Arizona, North Carolina and Texas, providing a broad range of acute/episodic and preventive healthcare services 365 days per year. FastMed also provides workers’ compensation services at all of its clinics, and family and sports medicine services at select locations. FastMed has successfully treated more than 5.8 million patients since the opening of its first clinic in 2005, and is the largest urgent care operator to be awarded the Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval® for accreditation in healthcare quality and safety in ambulatory healthcare. For more information about locations, services, hours of operation, insurance and prices, visit www.FastMed.com.

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