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Seasonal Flu vs. Stomach Flu

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Updated December 22, 2006

Question: Seasonal Flu vs. Stomach Flu

People often get confused about the differences between the flu, or influenza, and the stomach flu. These are actually two completely different, and unrelated, illnesses. The true flu is caused by the influenza virus and causes mostly upper respiratory problems. The "stomach flu" can be caused by a number of viruses and causes gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea and vomiting. A breakdown of the symptoms of these two different illnesses follows.

Answer:

When your doctor talks about the flu, he is referring to influenza, or the seasonal flu. It is characterized by:

  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Aches and pains
  • Fever
  • Exhaustion

The "stomach flu" is a completely different virus and is characterized by:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain and cramping
  • Occasionally fever

People with influenza will sometimes have vomiting and diarrhea, but these symptoms are rare.

So the next time you tell someone you had the flu, be sure you specify which type.

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