It was 1990 when my eldest son spewed puke all over me, his little brother and the entire contents of our brand new Pontiac Safari Station Wagon.
I don’t know who I felt worse for. Him for puking his guts out or for my little baby who was now covered in rainbow-colored puke. (Thanks Fruity Pebbles). As for me, I was pretty much used to getting peed, pooped and puked on, so it didn’t really bother me all that much.
Of course, their father was flipping out because he felt a little puke on his hair. Seriously, the three of us are covered in a reenactment of the Exorcist, and he’s worried about a little chocolate chip-sized morsel of puke in his hair.
When we finally got home (thankfully we were only 10 minutes away from the house when he exploded into a river of puke) and I took him out of his puked filled car seat, I noticed he was sitting on what resembled a 6 pack of melted chocolate bars. NICE!
Needless to say, once I got him all washed up, settled into bed and gave him a bucket to puke in, I went out to the car to clean up the mess. The entire time that lazy sack of dog shit turned on the race and sparked up a joint. I guess in his excitement of “man joy” he totally forgot he had some puke in his hair.
Did I remind him of it? Hell NO!
Stomach flu versus food poisoning, what’s the difference?
Figuring out the difference between stomach flu and food poisoning can be pretty tricky. Most of the symptoms are the same; however, there are some dramatic differences that should help you and reduce the stress you’re starting to feel at this point.
Stop with your self-doubt. Stop torturing yourself by asking “Am I doing enough”? “Should I hydrate him more”? “Should I take her to the emergency room”? “Should I take him to the doctor”?
Symptoms of a stomach flu
- Diarrhea – watery
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle aches
- General weakness
- Low-grade fever (anything above normal but below 100.4°F or 38°C)
- Light-headedness or dizziness
A butts best friend when it comes to diarrhea
Always keep flushable wipes, baby wipes, petroleum jelly or diaper rash cream close by. There’s gonna be a lot of butt wiping. The petroleum jelly or diaper rash cream will be your kid’s best friend, as it’s gonna relieve the burning sensation from the stomach acid that’s coming out every time they poop.
When your kid goes to the bathroom or when wiping, the petroleum jelly or diaper rash cream will cause a barrier between the stomach acid being released and their raw little butts.
Food poisoning symptoms
Here are the symptoms of food poisoning. You’ll notice there are some major differences between food poisoning and stomach flu.
- Bloody or watery poop- Bloody poop should be your first sign, it’s not the stomach bug.
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe abdominal cramps with excruciating pain
- Fever and chills
- Body aches
The symptoms of food poisoning will last several hours to several days. where-as the duration of the stomach bug can last from 3 days to over 2 weeks.
I made a printable version of the stomach flu and food poisoning symptoms. You can get a copy of the symptom checker guide to keep as a handy reference to store in your medicine cabinet, or where-ever you store your medication or first aid supplies.
When to call the doctor
9 out of 10 times you can take care of the stomach flu on your own; however, there are times when it’s imperative you call your healthcare provider.
You should see your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms (regardless if it’s from the stomach flu or food poisoning). Your kids should be brought to the doctor if they have any of the below symptoms or have been puking for more than 4 hours. If they’re under 6 months, take them immediately to the doctor; don’t wait until 4 hours.
- Fever over 101.3° F or 38.5° C
- Severe stomach pains and cramps
- Bloody diarrhea
- Black, yellow, white, gray or greasy poop
- Pooping more than 6 times a day
- Diarrhea lasts for more than 48 hours
- Unable to keep down any fluids
So now you know the symptoms, let’s talk about the remedies.
Over the counter medication
Before taking any over the counter medication, please consult your health care provider or pharmacist (preferably your doctor). There are a lot of drug-drug and food-drug interactions that can occur when you use an over-the-counter medication in conjunction with prescription medication or some foods.
Did you know something as simple as a glass of grapefruit juice can cause a severe reaction if it’s combined with certain prescription medications?
Not that you’re going to let your kid drink some grapefruit juice or eat some grapefruit wedges while they’re trying to rid themselves of the stomach bug. I cringe at what the acid will do to their tender little tummies. I just wanted to put it out there.
Some over the counter medications contain aspirin or a derivative of aspirin. If you read the active ingredients, many won’t say “aspirin”. They’ll use a fancy-schmancy pharmaceutical name you can’t pronounce let alone spell.
So, please don’t take anything without consulting your health care provider, okay?
Please don’t give these to your kids. The companies who make these products want you to use them and will tout you shouldn’t let diarrhea run its own course for one reason only.
The mighty dollar. They want you to buy their product with no regard for your family’s health and well-being.
Sure, they may think differently some year when they’re slapped with a multi-million class action suit, but why chance something so precious as the health and well-being of your kid?
Wow, look at me. I didn’t even fall climbing down from my soapbox.
Let the floodgates open – Why you shouldn’t use anti-diarrheal products
Diarrhea and puking are a good thing. Messy. Gross, but good.
The body’s natural defense mechanism is to purge itself of harmful pathogens. The only way it’s going to purge is by eliminating the evil invader through puke, pee or poop.
Diarrhea causes the body to rid itself of the invading pathogen, so do your best not to use over the counter anti-diarrheal products unless it is recommended by your physician.
By using an anti-diarrheal you’re keeping everything that needs to come out, in the body longer. The key is to let your child’s body do what it’s built for. Let the body’s defense mechanism work.
The same thing goes for vomiting. If the body needs to purge it, allow it to do so.
Let’s considers something else. Maybe it’s not the stomach flu and maybe you missed some bloody poop, because, after all, your kid loves red popsicles and ate a few.
You may have noticed some red discoloration in diarrhea, but you just figured it was from the popsicle. What if your kid has salmonella and you just gave them an antidiarrheal. Well for starters, you could have made things even worse.
Are you trying to figure out if it's a stomach flu or food poisoning?
Grab your copy of the stomach flu/food poisoning symptom checker, and know what you're dealing with before calling your doctor. This is the perfect resource to keep in your medicine cabinet.
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Not to freak you out
There’s a condition called Megacolon which causes the peristalsis muscles to stop working. In layman’s terms. Nothing is moving through the intestinal tract. That is bad. Very, very bad.
So, bottom line. Don’t give them anything over the counter without prior approval from your physician.
If you suspect your kid is dehydrated, don’t ask your cousin, neighbor, sister or friend if they think they look dehydrated. You’re their mom and your gut instinct is always 99.9% right. You need to stop second-guessing yourself.
Anyway, even if they aren’t dehydrated and you call the doctor, who cares if they think you’re a crazy, paranoid, overprotective mom. Do what you feel is in the best interest of your kid. Just remember, no one knows your kid better than you do.
Dehydration comes in many forms, but lookout for the following symptoms. If your child is experiencing any of these, please call your pediatrician or other health care provider immediately.
- Sunken eyes, belly or cheeks
- Excessive thirst
- Dry skin
- Dry or sticky mouth. Sometimes you’ll see white cotton looking substance in the corners of the mouth and lips.
- Peeing less
- Dark-colored pee
- No wet diapers for more than 3 hours
- Few or no tears when they cry
- Lack of normal skin elasticity
- Irregular heartbeat
Hydrated for dehydration
Excessive dehydration can cause a seizure. It doesn’t mean everyone who is dehydrated will have a seizure, it just means it’s a possibility. In order to keep your kid hydrated during their bouts of puking and pooping, it’s best to always keep them drinking.
Regardless, if you think your child is dehydrated, immediately contact your pediatrician or other health care provider.
The best form of hydration would be bottled spring water, Pedialyte, Gatorade, Powerade or any other electrolyte replacement drinks.
The key is to keep them hydrated. The best way to remember to keep them hydrated is by referring back to your symptom guide. You can get it right here.
Stomach Flu Remedies
Should you let your kid eat with the stomach flu?
Of course, you should, but it shouldn’t be anything heavy. Eating during the stomach flu is a two-part process.
Give them a clear liquid diet. You want them to drink plenty of clear liquids. Cola is not clear. Tomato soup is not clear. Chocolate Milk is not clear. Orange soda is not clear. Coffee is not clear. Okay, not that you’re gonna give your kid coffee, but you see where I’m going with this.
If you can’t see through it, it’s not clear.
The best things to give your kid when they’re suffering from the stomach flu are:
- Clear soda – 7-UP, Sprite, (NO MOUNTAIN DEW – way too much caffeine. It will stimulate the bowels more), clear flavored water, or just spring water. (Don’t give them bottle purified drinking water. It’s basically purified toilet water).
- Peppermint or ginger tea
- Clear broth – chicken or beef
- Ice chips
- Electrolyte replenishment drinks – Gatorade, Powerade, Pedialyte
For formula-fed or breastfed babies, let their little tummies rest for 15 or 20 minutes after they either puke or have diarrhea before continuing with nursing.
Stomach flu and grape juice
Please DO NOT let your kids have apple juice, cranberry. juice, white or purple grape juice while they’re suffering from the stomach flu.
There’s speculation online that grape juice is the end-all, be-all remedy for a stomach bug. I haven’t found any scientific evidence or documentation from the CDC stating that’s true, so, therefore, I can’t claim that as a fact.
By giving your child acidic juice, regardless if you dilute it or not, you can be causing more harm than good.
Now that your kid can start eating again, it’s best to start them on a bland diet. Let them eat as much as their little tummies can handle. If they can only eat a bite or two that’s better than nothing.
The best things for them to eat are:
- Toast – dry
- Saltine crackers
- Chicken – grilled or boiled with no seasonings
Keep them on this diet for 24 to 48 hours.
What to eat while you have food poisoning
Don’t eat anything. Just drink electrolyte replenishment drinks. Odds are you won’t even be able to keep that down but take small sips to replace all the fluids you just lost.
What to eat while recovering from food poisoning
You’ll want to eat the same things as you would eat if you had the stomach flu.
- Toast – dry
- Saltine crackers
- Chicken – grilled or boiled with no seasonings
Adults suffering from stomach flu or food poisoning
The symptoms for both the stomach flu and food poisoning are the same for adults as they are for children. The thing is; adults can handle these symptoms better than a child.
Regardless of who is inflicted with the stomach bug or food poisoning, you should always follow the same protocol.
Hopefully, this shed a little more light on the subject for you and the next time you’re smacked in the face with projectile vomit or find some melted chocolate bars in your kid’s car seat, you’ll have the tools you need to get through this ordeal like the champ I know you are.
What remedies have you used in the past to help your kid get through their battle of the stomach bug? Share in a comment below.
Until we meet again,
P.S. Don’t forget to get your stomach bug & food poisoning symptom checker
Here are a few other food poisoning articles I wrote which may be of interest to you: