Salmonella is a common cause of food poisoning. A person with salmonella poisoning may experience vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. A person who has had a reaction to certain foods, such as eggs or raw meat, should not eat other foods for two weeks.
People with a weakened immune system are more likely to experience severe symptoms of salmonella poisoning. It is important to seek emergency medical attention if a person experiences:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Diarrhea that lasts more than three days
- A headache
A person should not drink water for 24 hours after having salmonella poisoning.
Food poisoning from botulism
Botulism is a rare illness that can cause symptoms, such as weakness, loss of muscle control, muscle cramps, and difficulty breathing. The illness usually occurs after eating or drinking food that contains botulinum toxin.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any food-related treatment for botulism. Treatment is usually supportive.
A person with botulism may experience seizures, respiratory distress, and coma.
Severe allergic reactions and anaphylaxis
People may experience severe allergic reactions, anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock after eating or drinking certain foods. Symptoms include:
- Wheezing and difficulty breathing
- Hives or welts
- Swelling of the mouth and throat
A person with anaphylaxis should seek emergency medical attention.
A person who has a severe allergic reaction to a food should not eat or drink any other food or drink for 24 hours.
A person should avoid all contact with the person they believe has an allergic reaction for at least 24 hours.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Skin that is hot to the touch
A person should seek emergency medical treatment for a severe allergic reaction.
If a person experiences any of these symptoms after eating or drinking a food, they should seek emergency medical attention:
- Severe allergic reactions
- Severe skin reactions
Food poisoning symptoms in children
Most children have mild food poisoning, which usually goes away in a few days or a couple of weeks. Some children may have more severe symptoms.
Mild food poisoning may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrheal symptoms, such as watery eyes and a dry mouth
- Stomach cramps
A person with mild food poisoning may not need to see a doctor. If a person does not respond to home treatment, or if they experience any severe symptoms, it is important to seek emergency medical treatment.
Symptoms of severe food poisoning in children may include:
- Vomiting that is often bloody
- Severe abdominal or stomach pain
- Foul-smelling or bloody stools
A person may not be able to vomit and may need to be fed into a tube.
Causes of food poisoning
Certain foods are more likely to cause food poisoning.
For example, there are some foods that are more likely to cause food poisoning than others.
Food poisoning may be more likely to occur in:
- Young children
- People with a weakened immune system
- People with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer
- People who are pregnant
Food poisoning may also be more common in:
- People who live in poverty
- People who are overweight
In some instances, a person may simply consume too much food.
For example, if a person overeats, they may eat a large amount of food that has not been cooked properly. They may not be able to identify whether the food is safe to eat or not.
Complications of food poisoning
The most common complication of food poisoning is an infection. Infections may include:
- E. coli
Complications may include:
- Severe diarrhea
- Severe dehydration
- Severe electrolyte imbalance
- Severe anemia
- Reactions to food
- Intestinal perforation
A person does not always experience the same symptoms of food poisoning. Some people experience mild symptoms, while others may have more severe symptoms.
A person should see a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms:
- Severe vomiting
- Severe abdominal cramps
- Severe muscle cramps
- Vomiting that is bloody
- Diarrhea that is severe and may not improve or resolve on its own
Diagnosing food poisoning
A doctor will ask a person about past food consumption and any symptoms they may have experienced, including:
- Symptoms that may indicate food poisoning
- Symptoms that may indicate an infection
- Symptoms that may indicate dehydration
- A history of eating or drinking a large amount of food
A doctor will examine the person’s body to check for the presence of:
- Any signs of infection
- Any signs of dehydration
- Any signs of electrolyte imbalance or a severe anemia
In some cases, a doctor may order tests, such as:
- Blood tests
- Stool tests
- Blood cultures
- Imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or an X-ray, to check for signs of an intestinal perforation or intestinal obstruction
A doctor may also order a stool sample, which is a sample of stool from the rectum and anal canal.
Treating food poisoning
For mild food poisoning, a doctor may recommend the person:
- Drink lots of water
- Eat bland foods, such as toast, crackers, and bananas
- Eat small meals
- Eat smaller meals more frequently
- Eat bland foods
- Eat foods that have a high water content, such as yogurt
- Eat foods that are low in fat or cholesterol, such as milk products
- Eat foods that have a high salt content, such as some breakfast cereals
- Try to cut out sugar
A doctor may also recommend:
- Taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications to help with nausea
- Taking OTC pain medications
- Administering an OTC antidiarrheal medication, such as Immodium, to help manage diarrhea
For severe food poisoning, a doctor may prescribe:
- Antibiotics, such as amoxicillin and ciprofloxacin
- Medications to help with dehydration
When to see a doctor?
Anyone experiencing symptoms of food poisoning should seek emergency medical treatment.
Some people may have mild symptoms, while others may have severe symptoms. A person who has severe symptoms should seek emergency medical attention.
They should also seek emergency medical attention if they are pregnant or have certain medical conditions.
Food poisoning is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.
The symptoms of food poisoning are similar to other conditions, such as the flu. It is important to seek emergency medical help if a person experiences any of the following symptoms of food poisoning:
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