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What are the Different Food Poisoning Symptoms?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 17, 2024
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Food poisoning is a fairly common occurrence, and though in most cases it is mild and resolves itself within a few days, it can be deadly. For that reason, it is important to recognize food poisoning symptoms, and to visit an emergency room or doctor if necessary. In general, the most common food poisoning symptoms include nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Food poisoning is commonly caused when one consumes food that was not handled safely in storage or preparation, leading to growth of harmful bacteria. Food poisoning symptoms may appear within half an hour of eating contaminated food, to approximately 18 hours after, and will generally resolve within 48 hours. However, some strains of food poisoning can last up to ten days.

Food poisoning symptoms may include abdominal pain, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or loose stools, and headache. These symptoms may be severe or mild, depending on the particular strain of bacteria that is causing the food poisoning. In general, it is possible to treat food poisoning safely at home, and medication is usually not necessary.

The most important treatment for food poisoning is to stay hydrated by sipping clear liquids. Sports drinks should be diluted with water, to cut down on the amount of sugar being ingested. Caffeinated drinks should also be avoided. Preventing dehydration is the single most important goal when treating food poisoning, as dehydration can be deadly. If clear liquids cannot be kept down, it is likely that a visit to the emergency room will be necessary to receive intravenous fluids.

Once vomiting or diarrhea has stopped, one can then treat food poisoning by resuming a light, bland diet. This means bland foods such as plain rice, toast, and milk. Symptoms should then continue to improve. If food poisoning symptoms do not improve significantly in two days, it is time to visit the doctor.

In addition, it is necessary to go to the doctor or emergency room if other people who have eaten the same foods also have symptoms, or if the patient has recently returned from traveling overseas. If the patient has trouble breathing or swallowing, dizziness, is vomiting blood or has bloody stools, muscle weakness, blurred vision, a persistent high fever, swollen abdomen, decreased urination, yellowing skin, or loses consciousness at any point, it is necessary to go immediately to the emergency room. In addition, if the person is younger than age three or has another medical condition that weakens the immune system, he or she should visit their doctor to receive treatment.

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Discussion Comments
By GraniteChief — On Feb 10, 2011

I had food poisoning once, it was a horrible experience. I drank lots of water and electrolytes for days. I had extreme vomiting and other symptoms as mentioned. Sometimes carbonated water works with the stomach pain symptoms.

I think it's a good practice to look at the cleanliness of the kitchen at places you dine out. And be careful to look at the freshness of your food before you cook or eat it. I sure learned the hard way.

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