Food Poisoning: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Food Poisoning: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

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What is food poisoning?

Consuming contaminated, rancid, or toxic food can lead to foodborne illness, which is more frequently referred to as food poisoning. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are the three symptoms of food poisoning that occur the most frequently.

Food poisoning is relatively common, despite the fact that it can be quite unpleasant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Trusted Source estimates that each year, 48 million individuals in the United States, or approximately one out of seven, get sick from eating contaminated food. 128,000 people out of those 48 million are currently being treated in hospitals.

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Signs and symptoms of food poisoning

If you do have food poisoning, there is a good possibility that someone will notice right away.

The symptoms of an infection can be rather diverse depending on where the illness originated.

In most instances, a couple of the following signs and symptoms will be present when someone has food poisoning:

abdominal cramps




lack of hunger and appetite

mild fever



The following are examples of symptoms of food poisoning, which could possibly be fatal:

a prolonged case of diarrhea lasting more than three days

a temperature that is greater than 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius).

affliction with either seeing or speaking

dry mouth, trouble passing little to no pee, and difficulty keeping fluids down are some of the symptoms of extreme dehydration.

bloody urine

If you have any of these symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention and make an appointment with a physician.

How long does it take to recover from food poisoning?

The amount of time it takes for symptoms to show varies depending on the origin of the infection, but it can be as little as thirty minutes or as long as a few days.

The majority of cases will be resolved in one week, whether they are treated or not.

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The factors that can lead to food poisoning

One of these three major causes—bacteria, parasites, or viruses—is likely to blame for the majority of cases of food poisoning.

These infectious agents are present in practically every kind of food that people consume. On the other hand, the heat generated during cooking typically eliminates any microorganisms that may be present in food before it reaches our plates. Because they have not been subjected to the cooking process, foods that are consumed raw are one of the most common causes of food poisoning.

It is possible for food to come into contact with the organisms that are present in feces or vomit on rare occasions. If a sick person prepares food without first washing their hands, there is a high risk that they will spread their illness to others.

Meat, eggs, and dairy products are commonly tainted with bacteria and other pathogens. It’s also possible for disease-causing organisms to make their way into the water supply.


By a significant margin, the majority of cases of food poisoning are due to bacteria. The following are examples of bacterial causes of food poisoning:

  1. coli, and more specifically E. coli that produce the Shiga toxin (STEC)

Listeria monocytogenes



Clostridium botulinum

Staphylococcus aureus


Vibrio vulnificus

Names like E. coli and Salmonella immediately spring to mind when thinking about bacteria that can cause illness, and with good reason.

Salmonella is the most common type of bacterial pathogen that leads to cases of food poisoning in the United States. Trusted Source Salmonella infection is responsible for an estimated 1,350,000 cases of food poisoning and 26,500 hospitalizations each year, as stated by the CDC.

Both campylobacter and Clostridium botulinum are examples of less well-known but potentially fatal bacteria that may be present in the food that we eat.


Even while food illness brought on by parasites isn’t nearly as common as food poisoning brought on by bacteria, parasites that are transmitted through food are nevertheless extremely hazardous. They are as follows:

Toxoplasma gondii

Giardia lamblia

many types of tapeworms, including:

Taenia saginata (beef tapeworm)

Taenia solium (pork tapeworm)

Diphyllobothrium latum has been used (fish tapeworm)


A species of roundworm known as Ascaris lumbricoides

flatworms known as flukes, include the family Opisthorchiidae (liver fluke) and the genus Paragonimus (lung fluke)

Enterobiasis, often known as pinworms


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified toxoplasmosis as the greatest cause of death in the United States that can be attributable to food poisoning. In addition, Toxoplasma gondii can be detected in the litter boxes of cats.

It may take years before you realize you have parasites living in your digestive tract even if they are there. If certain parasites choose to make their home in a person’s intestines, those individuals who already have a compromised immune system or who are pregnant run the risk of experiencing more serious adverse consequences.


The following viruses are examples of those that are capable of causing food poisoning:

norovirus, which is sometimes referred to as the Norwalk virus in some circles




hepatitis A virus

The norovirus is responsible for between 19 and 21 million illnesses each year.

Reliable Source of cases of diarrhea and vomiting that occur annually in the United States. In extremely unusual instances, it might be lethal. There are other viruses that can cause symptoms that are very similar, but they are much less prevalent.

The virus that results in the illness known as hepatitis A can also be passed on through the consumption of contaminated food.

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Common sources

Cause of food poisoning How soon do symptoms start (after exposure) Where it’s found
Ascaris lumbricoides Rarely causes noticeable symptoms Produce grown in contaminated soil
Astrovirus 4–5 days Contaminated water
Campylobacter 2–5 days Raw or undercooked chicken, unpasteurized milk, contaminated water
Clostridium botulinum 18–36 hours Preserved vegetables that are low in acid (like green beans and mushrooms), canned tuna, fermented fish, ham, sausage, pruno (“prison wine”), items that have been improperly canned or bottled at home
Cryptosporidium 2–10 days (7 days on average) Fresh fruits, fruit juice, fresh vegetables, unpasteurized apple cider, unpasteurized milk, contaminated water
Diphyllobothrium latum (fish tapeworm) Rarely causes noticeable symptoms Raw or undercooked fish
E. coli 3–4 days Raw or undercooked beef, raw lettuce and other vegetables, raw sprouts, unpasteurized milk, contaminated water
Enterobiasis (pinworms) Rarely causes noticeable symptoms Mostly transmitted by touching a contaminated surface or through close contact with a person who has a case, but can also be caused by improper food handling
Giardia lamblia 1–2 weeks Produce grown in contaminated soil, contaminated meat, contaminated water

Can also be caused by improper food handling

Hepatitis A virus 15–50 days Frozen berries, frozen vegetables, undercooked shellfish, contaminated water

Can also be caused by improper food handling

Listeria monocytogenes 1–4 weeks Unpasteurized dairy (like milk and soft cheeses), melon, raw sprouts, deli meat, smoked fish
Norovirus 1–2 days Oysters and other shellfish, lettuce and other leafy greens, fresh fruit, contaminated water

Can also be caused by improper food handling

Opisthorchiidae (liver fluke) Rarely causes noticeable symptoms Raw or undercooked crab, crawfish, or fish
Paragonimus (lung fluke) 2–15 days Raw, undercooked, pickled, or salted crab or crawfish
Rotavirus 1–2 days Shellfish, salads, contaminated ice
Salmonella 6 hours–6 days Raw or undercooked poultry, eggs, raw fruits and vegetables, contaminated water
Sapovirus 1–3 days Oysters, clams, contaminated water
Shigella Usually 1–2 days (but can take up to 7 days) Raw vegetables, cold salads like tuna salad and potato salad, sandwiches, contaminated water

Can also be caused by improper food handling

Staphylococcus aureus 30 minutes–8 hours Puddings, cream-filled baked goods, sliced meats, cold salads like tuna salad and potato salad, sandwiches

Can also be caused by improper food handling or leaving foods at improper temperatures

Taenia saginata (beef tapeworm) Rarely causes noticeable symptoms Raw or undercooked beef
Taenia solium (pork tapeworm) Rarely causes noticeable symptoms Raw or undercooked pork
Toxoplasma gondii Rarely causes noticeable symptoms Undercooked shellfish or meat (specifically pork, lamb, and venison), contaminated water

Mostly transmitted through contact with infected cat feces, but can also be caused by improper food handling or preparation

Trichinella 1–2 days for abdominal symptoms and 2–8 weeks for other symptoms Raw or undercooked meat, specifically pork and wild game
Vibrio vulnificus 2–48 hours Raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters

Food poisoning treatments

In most cases, food poisoning can be treated successfully at home. The following are some of the methods that you can assist in the treatment of food poisoning:

Keep yourself hydrated.

When suffering from food poisoning, it is essential to maintain a healthy level of hydration. Drinks designed for athletes that are high in electrolytes can be beneficial. Restoring carbs in the body and fighting off weariness can be accomplished with the help of coconut water and fruit juice.

Caffeine, which can cause irritation in the digestive tract, should be avoided. There is some evidence that drinking decaffeinated teas containing calming herbs like chamomile, peppermint, and dandelion can help soothe an upset stomach.

Consume non-prescription, or over-the-counter (OTC), drugs.

Medications that are available without a prescription and without a visit to a doctor, such as loperamide (Imodium) and Pepto-Bismol, can help you control diarrhea and reduce nausea.

However, you should seek the advice of a medical professional before using these medications, as the body eliminates toxins through a process that includes both vomiting and diarrhea. Additionally, the usage of these medications may disguise the severity of the condition, which may cause you to put off getting professional treatment.

A typical treatment for pinworms is pyrantel pamoate, which is sold under the brand name Reese’s Pinworm Medicine.

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Use the medications that your doctor has prescribed.

In spite of the fact that many cases of food poisoning go away on their own, a doctor may prescribe certain medications to some patients if the organism that caused their illness is one that may be treated medically.

People who are elderly, immunocompromised, or pregnant may benefit from taking drugs that require a prescription. Antibiotic treatment is beneficial for pregnant women because it decreases the likelihood that an illness will be passed on to their unborn child.

If you need to take prescription medications, your physician may advise you to follow one of the following treatment plans for any of the following conditions:

  • A. lumbricoides: the antiparasitic drugs albendazole (Albenza) or mebendazole (Enverm)
  • zithromax is prescribed for treatment of campylobacter (Zithromax)
  • The anti-parasitic medicine nitazoxanide (Alinia), which is used to treat diarrhoea, is effective against the parasite cryptosporidium.
  • Praziquantel is an anti-parasitic medicine that is effective against D. latum, also known as fish tapeworm (Biltricide)
  • Enterobiasis (pinworms): albendazole (Albenza) or mebendazole (Enverm)
  • G. lamblia: nitazoxanide (Alinia)
  • metronidazole (Flagyl), paromomycin, quinacrine, or furazolidone tinidazole (Tindamax), which is both an antibiotic and an antiparasitic medicine, are some of the antibiotics that may be prescribed.
  • L. monocytogenes: the antibiotic ampicillin Opisthorchiidae (liver fluke): praziquantel (Biltricide) or albendazole (Albenza)
  • Paragonimus (lung fluke): praziquantel (Biltricide) or the antiparasitic drug triclabendazole (Egaten)
  • antibiotics azithromycin (Zithromax) or ciprofloxacin are recommended for treatment of Shigella (Cipro)
  • praziquantel (Biltricide) or albendazole (Albenza), which are both off-label therapies for T. saginata (beef tapeworm): praziquantel (Biltricide) or albendazole (Albenza).
  • praziquantel (Biltricide) or albendazole (Albenza), which are both off-label therapies for T. solium (pork tapeworm): praziquantel (Biltricide) or albendazole (Albenza)
  • T. gondii: a combination of the antiparasitic medicine pyrimethamine (Daraprim) and an antibiotic such as sulfadiazine the antibiotic spiramycin, as a solo medication T. gondii: a combination of the antiparasitic medication pyrimethamine (Daraprim) and an antibiotic such as sulfadiazine
  • Trichinella: albendazole (Albenza) or mebendazole (Enverm)


When medicine that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for one purpose is used for another use, which has not yet been approved, this is referred to as “off-label” drug use.

Nevertheless, a medical practitioner might continue to make use of the medicine for the intended purpose. This is due to the fact that the FDA only regulates the testing and approval of new drugs; it does not supervise how doctors treat their patients with existing medications. Therefore, your physician is free to prescribe a medication in whatever manner they believe will benefit your health the most.

Take an antidote to the poison.

An infection with Clostridium botulinum is regarded as a critical medical situation. Seek medical attention as soon as it is possible.

An antitoxin will be given to you by a medical professional if it is determined that you have C. botulinum. A specialized antidote known as BabyBIG will be administered to infants (botulism immune globulin).

Rest Those who have food poisoning should also make sure to obtain enough rest in order to recover as quickly as possible.

If your condition is very bad

In more serious cases of food poisoning, you might need to be rehydrated with intravenous (IV) fluids in a hospital setting.

In the most severe cases of food poisoning, you might need to remain in the hospital for a longer period of time while you recuperate. People who have severe cases of C. botulinum, which are uncommon, can even need to have their breathing assisted by a machine.

When you get food poisoning, these are the foods and drinks you should consume.

It is advised to refrain from eating anything solid until the symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting have subsided completely. Instead, transition back into your typical eating habits gradually by consuming foods and beverages that are easy to digest, unflavored, and low in fat, such as:

Crackers made with saltines

toast \sgelatin \sbananas

Rice oatmeal potatoes uninteresting

boiled veggies

chicken broth Soda with no caffeine such as ginger ale or root beer Fruit juices diluted with water Chicken broth Soda with no caffeine

sports drinks

What should be avoided

Any if you feel like you’re getting better, it’s best to avoid the following meals that are more difficult for your digestive system to process. This will help keep your stomach from becoming even more irritated.

foods made from dairy animals, most notably milk and cheese

foods high in fat content.

dishes that are deep fried.

meals that are heavily seasoned

foods that are very high in sugar foods that are very spicy

Also avoid

caffeine \salcohol \snicotine

The diagnostic process for food poisoning

On the basis of your symptoms, a medical professional may be able to determine the specific kind of food poisoning you have.

In extreme situations, tests on your blood, stool, and the food that you have eaten may be performed to discover the cause of the food poisoning. These tests may also be performed on the meal itself. A urine test is another method that a physician might use to determine whether or not you are dehydrated as a result of food poisoning.

Food poisoning’s potential causes and dangers

Food poisoning is a condition that can affect anyone. In the course of their lives, the vast majority of people will, according to the statistics, suffer from food poisoning at least once.

Some populations are more vulnerable than others to the effects of the threat. These are the following:

persons who have impaired immune systems. An increased risk of infection and other consequences due to food poisoning may be present in those who already have a compromised immune system or who suffer from an autoimmune condition.

Pregnant folks. People who are pregnant have a greater chance of contracting the disease because their bodies are attempting to adjust to the many changes that pregnancy brings to their metabolism and circulatory systems.

Older adults. Adults who are 65 years of age or older face a greater chance of developing food poisoning than those who are younger. Their immune systems may not react rapidly enough to pathogenic organisms, which is why this happens.

Kids in their early years. Due to the fact that their immune systems aren’t as developed as those of adults, children under the age of 5 are also regarded to be part of a group that is at danger. Children under the age of three are more susceptible to dehydration as a result of vomiting and diarrhea.

How to protect oneself from getting food poisoning

Food poisoning can be avoided to some extent by practicing safe food handling and avoiding consuming any food that might be contaminated.

Because of the way in which certain foods are produced and cooked, there is a higher risk that eating them will result in food poisoning. Certain foods, such as those listed below, may contain infectious pathogens that are rendered harmless by the cooking process.

meat \spoultry \seggs \sshellfish

Poisoning from food can occur if these foods are consumed in their uncooked state, if they are not prepared adequately, or if the hands and surfaces involved are not thoroughly cleansed following contact with them.

Other foods that have a high potential for causing food poisoning are as follows:

deli meats and hot dogs that haven’t been heated or cooked ground beef, which may contain meat from several animals unpasteurized milk, cheese, and juice raw, unwashed fruits and vegetables sushi and other fish products that are served raw or undercooked ground beef that may contain meat from several animals

Take the following precautions to reduce your risk of getting food poisoning:

Always wash your hands before handling food, whether you’re going to be preparing or eating.

Make sure that your food is kept and sealed in the appropriate manner.

Prepare the beef and eggs by thoroughly cooking them.

Before using it to prepare other items, you need to sanitize anything that gets dirty from coming into contact with raw foodstuffs.

Before you serve fruits and vegetables to guests, be sure they have been well washed.

Perspectives regarding food poisoning

It is highly unusual for food poisoning to pose a threat to a person’s life. The good news is that the majority of individuals recover entirely within a few days, even if they do not receive treatment for their food poisoning, despite the fact that having food sickness is rather uncomfortable.

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