"A lot of times it is not possible to confirm one way or the other if it's food poisoning," says David Burkhart, MD, staff physician at the Indiana University Health Center in Bloomington, who has published a scientific article on the topic.
But doctors will try, taking a careful history, which can yield clues. For instance, Burkhart says if symptoms start before you’ve even finished the meal -- your stomach starts to feel queasy -- it's a good guess you've been infected with an organism that causes food-borne illness. If everyone who has eaten at the same picnic or restaurant is suddenly sick, that, too, points to food poisoning.
You could also have a stomach virus or gastroenteritis, a condition that leads to irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines triggered by infection, says Jason Dees, DO, a family physician in New Albany, Miss., and a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "With food poisoning and gastroenteritis, the symptoms can look like each other," Dees says. "Differentiating the two can be really difficult."
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