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Differences between Influenza and Stomach Flu

I have the Stomach flu, oh no, wait! I have the Flu!

Understanding the differences in causes and symptoms of each is important for knowing your overall health and whether you are in any real danger from the illness. Stomach flu can be caused by many different viruses and bacterias and can cause a host of problems in the gastrointestinal tract, including vomiting and diarrhoea. The flu or influenza primarily causes problems in the respiratory system. Here is a brief overview of the differences between the Flu and the Stomach flu.


Flu or Influenza (seasonal flu)

This is the type of flu you probably hear about most often and should be what comes to mind when you think of the word "flu". It is a seasonal virus, changing slightly and infecting people anew each time flu season rolls around. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, flu and pneumonia were listed as the twelfth leading cause of death in 2015. Common flu symptoms include coughing, nasal congestion, fever and associated symptoms, body aches and pains, and fatigue. And yes, you need to have a flu vaccine to fight it!

Typically, the virus strikes quickly and can be felt strongly. You may go to bed entirely healthy and wake up the next morning feeling terrible. Symptoms tend to last anywhere from two to ten days and are likely to incapacitate you during that time. Healthy individuals usually recover on their own without complications, but some may develop more severe symptoms or infections. While the common cold rarely disrupts school and work schedules, if you have been hit with the flu, you should stay home until symptoms subside. In addition to the virus impairing your daily activities, it may also spread to those around you, turning a personal illness into one felt by the whole office. This is particularly important in companies that do not run yearly workplace flu vaccination programs.

If you think you have caught the flu, and especially if you belong to any high-risk group, contact your General Practitioner (GP) to determine if antiviral medications and treatments may be of any use to you.


Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu)

The stomach flu (Gastroenteritis) also known as "gastric flu", has nothing to do with the seasonal flu or influenza. It can be caused by bacteria, norovirus, rotavirus, or other less common viruses. Common symptoms include stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, and (on occasion) fever. While influenza can cause these symptoms, only fevers are in common with an influenza infection.

While the symptoms of this illness are more undesirable than those of influenza, they are also less dangerous. In general, you probably only need to seek medical attention if you become seriously dehydrated as a result of your symptoms. Vomiting typically subsides within 24 hours, and diarrhoea may persist for several days. If you vomit frequently and fail to keep fluids down, seek medical advice as this may lead to critical dehydration.