The symptoms of stomach flu and appendicitis can be quite similar and it is possible for people to find it difficult to distinguish between the two ailments at the outset.
The appendix is a small sac connected to the large intestine at the lower side of the abdomen. Sometimes the opening of the appendix to the large intestine gets blocked and this results in appendicitis. The appendix can thus get inflamed and there can be an overgrowth of bacteria in it. The infected appendix should be surgically removed, before the pressure builds up within it and it ruptures and bursts. This is a serious condition and the infection can spread through the abdomen causing severe pain. This condition can be fatal if not treated with urgency.
This condition normally affects children who are not able to explain their discomfort or tell where it exactly hurts. In both stomach flu and in appendicitis a person will experience abdominal pain and discomfort along with nausea and vomiting. In the case of stomach flu it is also accompanied with diarrhea. The patient may develop a slight fever in both cases and have a loss of appetite.
Stomach flu is caused by viruses, bacteria, toxins, parasites, food allergies or due to certain side effects of medication. The gastrointestinal tract is affected leading to diarrhea and vomiting and other symptoms. Stomach flu normally goes away within a few days and does not require medical treatment. Simple home remedies such as a complete fluid diet for a couple of days to keep the patient hydrated is all that is required. As the symptom ease the person can gradually consume bland, semi solid food before switching over to a normal diet without fats and spices. Food such as alcohol, citrus juices, caffeine, milk and dairy products should be completely avoided when suffering from stomach flu.
If no improvement
If the condition does not improve in two or three days and the diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain continues or worsens then the patient should be taken to a medical practitioner for a proper diagnosis. This may require some laboratory tests to find out the cause for the illness.
In case of appendicitis
In the case of appendicitis the pain normally begins in the center of the abdomen and around the area of the navel. The pain may then spread towards the location of the appendix. This may be accompanied with a slight fever, nausea, loss of appetite and vomiting. If the condition is not diagnosed as appendicitis the pain may worsen and the infected appendix may rupture and burst. There is acute pain at this stage. Once the appendix ruptures and the infection spreads through the abdomen the pain becomes more generalized. Antibiotics and surgery can safely treat this condition.
The infection in the abdomen due to a ruptured appendix may cause an inflammation of the bowel, leading to diarrhea. This may again mislead people to think that this is a condition of stomach flu. Diarrhea is a classic sign of a ruptured appendix but not of appendicitis.
There are several tests a doctor can suggest to diagnose appendicitis and rule out the possibility of common stomach flu.
- A physical examination will show the region of tenderness in the abdomen.
- A blood test to see if there is an elevated white blood count
- A microscopic examination of the urine
- An abdominal x-ray to detect any blockage in the opening of the appendix leading to the large intestine.
- An ultra sound to detect an enlarged appendix
- A CT scan to detect appendicitis
Though appendicitis is a common ailment it often takes time to diagnose it due to the similarity of its symptoms to other illnesses. Hence if a person is confused as to whether the symptoms of his illness are due to stomach flu or appendicitis it is best to consult the doctor as early as possible.