What is the 24 hour flu

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Understanding what is the 24 hour flu and how to deal with the virus

Influenza -- also known as the flu -- is a contagious respiratory disease which can cause a mild to severe illness in patients. The normal course of illness runs from one to two weeks, on average.

With that said, people have experienced a 24-hour variety of the illness. So, what is 24 hour flu? Is it real? Or is it some another pathogen which mimics flu-like symptoms?

In order to know what's causing your discomfort, you must understand your symptoms. That way you can find the right treatment for you. Could it be something totally different: Gastroenteritis? Food poisoning, even?

Keep reading to learn more about potential causes for your discomfort: Is it influenza, food poisoning, gastroenteritis caused by the norovirus, or some other bug?

General Information

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza symptoms can range from:
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle and/or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fever or chills
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Fatigue
  • Certain people may also experience vomiting and/or diarrhea --Yet this happens to be much more common in children than adults

Influenza, in most cases, will not cause diarrhea or nausea. Now, contrast this with the stomach flu; which is a form of gastroenteritis in which there's an irritation of the stomach and/or intestinal lining. This discomfort will normally take the form of diarrhea and/or nausea/vomiting.

So, it's important to know and understand your own symptoms in order to understand which particular malady you are dealing with. Thus, recovery times will tend to run anywhere from a few days up to around two weeks.

So, what is 24 hour flu? Does it actually exist or is it some other form of bug which successfully mimics flu-like symptoms? Let's take a look at a few other options below.

Clostridium Perfringens

Also known as food poisoning, Clostridium perfringens can make its presence felt a few hours after ingesting poorly cooked food. One may experience:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea

These symptoms usually occur within 6-24 hours; but most times they will begin around 8-12 hours after ingestion. It normally lasts less than 24 hours, and in most cases, vomiting and fever are not usually associated with it, according to the CDC


According to the Minnesota Department of Health, many instances of the purported "24-hour flu" are simply cases of norovirus outbreaks. It is a contagious virus -- a person can get norovirus from contaminated food, water, surfaces, or people -- which causes gastroenteritis, which is the inflammation of the stomach and/or small and large intestines.

It's important to note that norovirus isn't related to influenza at all. Called "food poisoning" or the "stomach virus," symptoms of norovirus may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Nausea
  • Throwing up
  • Stomach pain

Dehydration is a main concern, especially true in young children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. The timetable for getting better is usually anywhere from 1 to 3 days.

Thus, it's better to call it a 24-hour bug. With a wide-range of potential causes -- depending upon which symptoms you are experiencing -- maybe the shorter variety of illness is actually better to have -- and get over -- than some of these longer variations. Take some solace in that, at least. You should feel better in no time.

Resources: Flu Symptoms&Severity. The Real Deal on the 24-Hour Flu.

Above photo attributed to bulinna

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