Actually, people are often confused about the differences between the stomach flu and the regular flu. Whereas viruses can cause both, the similarities pretty much end there.
Medically speaking, the term 'stomach flu' is a complete misnomer. The proper term for stomach flu is 'gastroenteritis' and is often caused by a virus (perhaps you have heard of rotavirus or the Norwalk virus). However, bacteria may also be the cause, as seen with food poisoning. Whether viral or bacterial, the symptoms are usually the same and may include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes fever. Treatment includes rest and enough oral fluids to replace what your body is losing. If the nausea and diarrhea are bad enough, your doctor may want to prescribe medications to help control these symptoms. Antibiotics play no role in the treatment of a common 'stomach flu.'
On the other side of the coin is the regular flu. This is the correct use of the word 'flu' because the medical term for this condition is called 'influenza.' It is caused by one type of virus, which we call the influenza virus. Unlike the 'stomach flu' which mainly affects the GI tract, the influenza virus mainly affects the lungs and upper respiratory tract. Symptoms may include fever, fatigue, muscle aches, chest congestion and cough. The treatment for influenza is usually symptomatic and antibiotics are rarely needed.
Clayton Mazoué, M.D., is a board-certified Family Practice physician at East Jefferson General Hospital. To make an appointment with Dr. Mazoué or another physician at EJGH, please call HealthFinder at 504-456-5000.