Don't let a stomach illness ruin your holidays

Know the signs of sickness

  • By
  • | 10:21 a.m. December 15, 2016
Photo courtesy of Guidewell Emergency Doctors - Food poisoning tends to show symptoms within one to four hours of eating bad food, but parasites or infections can take longer.
Photo courtesy of Guidewell Emergency Doctors - Food poisoning tends to show symptoms within one to four hours of eating bad food, but parasites or infections can take longer.
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
  • Opinion
  • Share

The holiday season is here, which means lots of gatherings with friends and family and sharing of food. Unfortunately, a hug from a friend may leave us exposed to a virus or a pot luck celebration may find us nibbling on contaminated food. If you are dealing with an unpleasant stomach issue, you may be wondering “am I sick?” or “was it something I ate?” The answer may be difficult to determine, as the symptoms for both food poisoning and the stomach flu are similar. However, there are a few clues that may help you figure out what it is that’s bugging you.


In most cases, food poisoning symptoms begin within one to four hours of eating contaminated food. However, in some rare cases, a food parasite or staph infection can begin to grow but you may not see signs for up to 10 days. If your symptoms do not subside after a day or two, it is a good idea to call the doctor. Certain food borne illnesses such as norovirus, e coli, salmonella and listeria can be serious or even fatal, particularly in small children. The most common signs of food poisoning are:

• Severe gastrointestinal cramping and pain

• Severe nausea and diarrhea

• Body aches

• Fever

These symptoms may be the same as your basic virus; however, the stomach virus will usually not be as severe and may also be accompanied with other flu-like symptoms such as chest congestion, running nose and cough.

Treatment for food poisoning vs. stomach flu

The treatment for either condition is basically the same — rest and let it run its course. Chances are you will begin to feel better within 24 to 48 hours. If you don’t feel better or if you continue to have vomiting and diarrhea, get to the doctor right away. The biggest concern here isn’t whether or not you have food poisoning versus the stomach flu — it is dehydration.

Hydration for either one of these ailments is a must as your body is losing water and electrolytes. Sipping on water or products with electrolytes in them can help, but if you decide to consume products like Gatorade, it’s recommended that you water them down, as the sugar and sodium can sometimes lead you to further dehydration.

If you experience any of the following, seek medical help immediately:

• Extreme fatigue

• Persistent, high fever

• Inability to urinate

• Dry mouth

• Increased dizziness or blurred vision


The best way to prevent any illness is to wash your hands before eating or handling food. Unfortunately, not all food handlers follow this rule and you can’t see the bacteria growth (in most cases) on your food with the naked eye.

Be extra cautious, particularly when traveling, and always make sure your food is cooked thoroughly. If it is supposed to be hot, make sure it is hot. If it’s supposed to be cold, make sure it is cold. Overall, a good rule of thumb is if it looks funny, smells funny or tastes funny, don’t eat it!

Dr. Christopher Hamann is board certified with the American Board of Emergency Medicine and serves as the medical director for GuideWell Emergency Doctors. Dr. Hamann leads a team of experienced emergency doctors, nurses and technicians who staff GuideWell Emergency Doctors seven days a week. They provide high-quality, cost-effective care for the unscheduled medical needs of patients of all ages. With on-site diagnostic services that include CT scan, X-ray, ultrasound and lab work, GuideWell Emergency Doctors is prepared to treat major medical conditions as well as minor urgent care needs. The facilities are located in Lakeside Winter Park, near Trader Joe’s at the intersection of South Orlando Avenue and West Morse Boulevard, and in Orlando at 1706 N. Semoran Blvd., approximately one mile north of Colonial Drive. Learn more about GuideWell Emergency Doctors at


Latest News