How do I Choose the Best Food Poisoning Treatment?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
A Salmonella bacterium, a common cause of food poisoning.
A Salmonella bacterium, a common cause of food poisoning.

Food poisoning may mean a mild reaction to a parasitic or bacterial agent from which people easily recover. It can also mean a very severe, possibly fatal, illness resulting from exposure to bacteria or parasites that will require medical treatment in order to resolve. Given this range of severity, it is very difficult to choose the best food poisoning treatment or recommend a generic treatment that is good for everyone. Instead, observation of symptoms and taking into account higher risk factors are the best way to determine when to see a physician.

Food poisoning often causes stomach cramping.
Food poisoning often causes stomach cramping.

The first step in choosing the best food poisoning treatment is to determine if it is actually food poisoning or the flu. Many people can’t answer that when they get hit with sudden stomach cramping and severe diarrhea and/or nausea. Fever doesn’t necessarily provide the answer, since a stomach virus may also come with fever. The smart approach to choose the best food poisoning treatment is to monitor symptoms and treat any serious stomach bug the same way.

Drinking clear liquids helps to prevent dehydration from food poisoning.
Drinking clear liquids helps to prevent dehydration from food poisoning.

First, it is important to stay hydrated. With many food poisoning and stomach flu cases, fluid loss can become dramatic with constant vomiting or diarrhea. Fluid loss may also ironically lead to more nausea, so attempting to keep some fluid down, in small doses, is important. The best choice for this is an electrolyte balanced solution, which can either be made at home or purchased at most stores. Especially with nausea, small sips of liquid are most useful. High sugar liquids are not recommended due to their tendency to increase diarrhea.

A case of salmonella may be indicated by fever and vomiting  as well as abdominal pain.
A case of salmonella may be indicated by fever and vomiting as well as abdominal pain.

Some people are so violently ill they cannot keep any liquids down, and they might show other symptoms like high fever. When people are vomiting for four hours or more and especially if they have a fever of higher than 101 degrees F (38.33 degrees C), a doctor should be contacted. At this point the best treatment for food poisoning could be admission to a hospital, or at the least, intravenous (IV) fluids to help stabilize electrolytes. Similarly, diarrhea lasting for more than a day with fever of 101 or above deserves at least a call to a doctor.

Intravenous fluids and medications may be given to treat or prevent dehydration caused by food poisoning.
Intravenous fluids and medications may be given to treat or prevent dehydration caused by food poisoning.

If people have underlying medical conditions, it’s difficult to choose the best food poisoning treatment. Young children, the elderly, and anyone with a chronic medical illness tend to need earlier treatment. In general, it’s recommended that for infants and the elderly, medical help be contacted within two hours of profuse vomiting with no liquid intake. The same may apply for anyone suffering from serious illness. Similarly, anyone who is pregnant and thinks they may have contracted a food borne illness should contact the doctor right away.

In medical settings, common treatment is fluid, anti-nausea medications and testing for food borne illnesses. Diagnosis of an offending germ helps doctors choose the best food poisoning treatment. This could be nothing, decision to give more supportive care for symptoms, or treatment with antibacterial/antiparisitic drugs.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

aplenty

@ Framemaker- I agree that the FDA and USDA serve the manufacturers before the consumer, but in their defense it is hard to trace the cause of food poisoning. I would assume it would take at least a dozen or so people reporting symptoms of food poisoning and a lot of elimination to determine what the cause was with enough confidence to issue a recall. The very nature of food is that it has a limited shelf life, so a recall will often happen after a number of people have consumed the goods and fallen ill. I do think though that these recalls still serve a purpose. They embarrass the companies, and put pressure on them to revise their manufacturing practices to produce safer food.

FrameMaker

I am disappointed with the way that the FDA and USDA (not sure which agency is in charge) handles food safety. I got sick from the salmonella poisoning late last year, which eventually led to the biggest egg recall in history. What I don't understand is why the recall didn't happen until at least two to three weeks after the eggs made people sick. By this time, all of the contaminated eggs had been sold and most likely eaten. Having a recall and a national salmonella warning does little good when the vast majority has likely consumed the products. It makes me wonder why I pay taxes to support these agencies when they don't look out for my safety.

stolaf23

The difficulty I have found with treating food poisoning symptoms is that they are often vague and come and go too quickly to identify. When headache, dizziness, fever, or even vomiting last only a day or so it is difficult to know if they were in fact food poisoning or merely a virus of some kind. Generally in those instances, when they have occurred, I have treated them as if they were a virus- with rest and water.

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    • A Salmonella bacterium, a common cause of food poisoning.
      By: Lyuba Bunakova
      A Salmonella bacterium, a common cause of food poisoning.
    • Food poisoning often causes stomach cramping.
      By: Alliance
      Food poisoning often causes stomach cramping.
    • Drinking clear liquids helps to prevent dehydration from food poisoning.
      By: Andrey Kuzmin
      Drinking clear liquids helps to prevent dehydration from food poisoning.
    • A case of salmonella may be indicated by fever and vomiting  as well as abdominal pain.
      By: Ocskay Bence
      A case of salmonella may be indicated by fever and vomiting as well as abdominal pain.
    • Intravenous fluids and medications may be given to treat or prevent dehydration caused by food poisoning.
      By: ShpilbergStudios
      Intravenous fluids and medications may be given to treat or prevent dehydration caused by food poisoning.