The holiday season brings with it plenty of traveling and visiting with family and friends, which can expose you to new foods and (sometimes) germs.

When your stomach doesn’t feel right, it’s not always clear what kind of ill you may be dealing with. Symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting can be the result of a host of illnesses ranging from food poisoning to the stomach flu.

Here’s a look at how you may be able to tell what is causing your symptoms, provide some relief, or make the decision to seek urgent care where testing can be done to determine cause of your illness.

Food poisoning is caused from eating foods that contain bacteria, viruses or parasites. The most common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, watery diarrhea, stomach cramping, and even fever. They can start within hours of eating contaminated food or show up days later. At-home treatment options include: resting, drinking clear fluids (water, tea, and broth), and taking acetaminophen to reduce fever and discomfort. You should also avoid milk and cheese products, raw fruits and vegetables, fatty foods, alcohol, spicy foods and caffeine for a few days.

Seek medical attention if: You experience frequent episodes of vomiting and can’t keep down liquids, diarrhea for more than three days, extreme pain with abdominal cramping, a temperature higher than 101.5, signs of severe dehydration, or neurological symptoms such as blurry vision or muscle weakness. Depending on the type of bacteria, you may be able to get antibiotic treatment, or get help replacing fluids (through IV treatment) by seeking urgent care.

Viral Gastroenteritis is known more commonly as the stomach flu but should not to be confused with influenza, which affects only the respiratory system. It is an intestinal infection caused by ingesting contaminated food or water, or through contact (shaking hands, kissing or sharing utensils)  with an infected person. There are various viruses that can cause stomach flu, including rotaviruses, adenoviruses, and the Norwalk virus. Symptoms are similar to those listed for food poisoning, but can also include muscle aches, headache or a low-grade fever. The symptoms appear within one to three days of infection and can range in severity and persist as long as 10 days.

Seek medical attention if: You suspect viral gastroenteritis in an older adult, infant or person with a compromised immune system. Even though there is treatment for this viral illness, medical professionals can help mitigate symptoms in cases when the illness can potentially be deadly. Adults should call a doctor if they have not been able to keep liquids down for 24 hours, have a fever of 104 or higher, are vomiting blood or have bloody stool, or show signs of excessive dehydration. Infants need medical attention if they have a fever of 102 or higher, seem lethargic or to be in a lot of discomfort, have bloody diarrhea, or show signs of dehydration.

How can I avoid getting sick? Wash your hands frequently and pay attention to food safety. The best offense is a good defense!

If you’ve been suffering a stomach ache or other ills of the digestive system, the medical providers at ZipClinic Urgent Care will take a detailed history and perform a physical exam to determine the cause. The ZipClinic practitioner will then recommend a course of treatment, prescribe the appropriate medications, and/or make a referral to a specialist for ongoing care.

ZipClinic is located in Denver, Aurora, and Westminster, Colorado; Belgrade, Montana; and Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Visits to ZipClinic are on a no appointment needed, walk-in basis and ZipClinic is open extended evening and weekend hours for your convenience.  ZipClinic accepts most insurance plans and offers affordable cash pay pricing for the uninsured.