How to tell if you have flu, cold or stomach flu, and what to know

While each year millions in the US are sickened during flu season, many can’t distinguish between symptoms of the seasonal strain of the flu, a cold and the “stomach flu.” Knowing the difference, and how to properly treat each virus, can speed recovery.

Similar yet different

While cold symptoms come on slowly and are limited to the head and upper respiratory system, flu symptoms affect the whole body and come on quickly. Telltale signs of the flu are fever and body aches. However, these are also symptoms of stomach flu, which isn’t related to a flu virus at all. Common viruses that wreak havoc on the digestive system include the norovirus and the rotavirus. Ironically, an immune system weakened by seasonal flu can leave you vulnerable to these so-called stomach flu viruses.

What you need to know

Although high fever and body aches occur with both seasonal flu and viruses that attack the gastrointestinal system, these symptoms are more prevalent and severe in seasonal flu cases, and are accompanied by fatigue and headache. The norovirus and the rotavirus both get the misnomer “stomach flu” from primary symptoms being watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and nausea or vomiting. Fever and body aches can also occur but are milder.

No matter what the cause of a fever, it’s best to monitor your temperature. See a healthcare professional if a fever is too high or lingers for days.


The key is to act quickly when symptoms surface, nipping them in the bud in a way that won’t interact with other medications or cause unwanted side effects like drowsiness.

For stomach flu, stop eating solid food for a few hours. This will help settle your stomach. Then – stick to foods that are easy to digest, such as toast, gelatin, bananas, rice and chicken  – avoiding fatty or spicy options. Stop eating if nausea occurs. Additionally, ibuprofen may upset the stomach, and anti-diarrheal medications may slow down the elimination of the virus. Trust the body’s natural process.

No matter what ails you, Vitamins D and C are important when you are recovering, helping to boost immunity. Remember, antibiotics do not treat viruses and their overuse contribute to the spread of the superbug, a strain of bacteria that becomes resistant to antibiotic drugs.

Seasonal illnesses such as the flu, cold and gastrointestinal viruses are not only painful and unpleasant, they can be dangerous. Take precautions to stay healthy, and remember to treat symptoms right away.

Courtesy of StatePoint

Did you know? 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most adults can infect others with the flu one day prior to developing symptoms and up to seven days after getting sick. The CDC recommends staying home if you’re sick and staying away from others who are sick. Washing your hands frequently and disinfecting highly used surfaces at home, work and school is recommended.

  1. Thank you for this article. IMO, vaccines should be avoided since these are designed with the aim to depopulate.;)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.