- Usually contracted after eating food contaminated by viruses or bacteria.
- Can also be caused by parasites or exposures to toxins or chemical agents.
- Causes anything from mild to severe acute discomfort and may leave you temporarily dehydrated.
- Mild cases may last only a few hours or days, but more serious types, such as botulism or certain forms of chemical or toxin poisoning, are severe and possibly life-threatening unless you medical treatment is sought
Generally, food poisoning causes some combination of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that may or may not be bloody, sometimes with other symptoms.
After eating tainted food, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting, can start as early as one hour in the case of staph and as late as 10 days in the case of campylobacter. It may take even longer to develop symptoms from parasite infections such as Giardia. Symptoms can last from one day up to a couple of months or longer, depending on the type of infection.
Vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, dizziness, tearing in the eyes, excessive salivation, mental confusion, and stomach pain may be symptoms of chemical or toxin food poisoning such as that from poisonous mushrooms.
Partial loss of speech or blurred vision, muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, muscle paralysis from the head down through the body, and vomiting may indicate botulism, a severe but very rare type of bacterial food poisoning
Call Your Doctor About Food Poisoning If:
- You suspect that you have food poisoning
- You have:
- Any signs of dehydration such as dry mouth, decreased urination, dizziness, or sunken eyes
- Any diarrhea in a newborn or infant
- Diarrhea that lasts longer than 2 days (one day in a child) or is severe
- Severe abdominal pain or vomiting
- Fever of 102°F or higher (or a rectal temperature of 100.4°F in baby younger than 3 months of age)
- Stools that are black, tarry, or bloody
- You recognize symptoms of chemical or toxin food poisoning, such as vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, dizziness, tearing in the eyes, excessive salivation, mental confusion, and stomach pain, beginning about 30 minutes after eating contaminated food. You need immediate medical treatment to help avoid potential damage to one or more of your vital organs.
Symptoms of botulism are partial loss of speech or blurred vision, muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, muscle paralysis from the head down through the body, and vomiting. You need immediate medical treatment for this potentially life-threatening illness.
How Do I Know If I Have Food Poisoning?
Most cases of food poisoning are mild, lasting from one to three days. Since many people do not seek medical care, their food poisoning is not diagnosed.
Though your symptoms may sound suspicious, the only way to know for sure if you have food poisoning is to test the offending food or check the stool, blood, or vomit.
Chemical or toxin food poisoning can usually be diagnosed by a description of symptoms and by testing food potentially responsible for the poisoning.
Medication to control diarrhea or vomiting until the condition is under control.
Infants, children, elderly people, and anyone with diabetes or other chronic conditions should be closely monitored for dehydration and other potential complications.
Antibiotics may be prescribed for some types of food poisoning.
If botulism is suspected, you will be hospitalized immediately. Although botulism can lead to respiratory failure and even death, prompt treatment greatly increases the chance for full recovery.