Food Poisoning

Food Poisoning Quick Overview

  • Food poisoning is a disease that usually results in vomiting and diarrhea after a person eats or drinks fluids contaminated with certain bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemicals (toxins).
  • The most common symptoms and signs of food poisoning are vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Other symptoms that may occur are fever, abdominal pain and/or cramps.
  • Severe signs and symptoms may include dehydration, blood in vomit or stools, diarrhea over three days, and neurologic symptoms; for example, weakness, blurry vision, and an abnormal sensation of the body such as burning, tingling, or numbness (paresthesias).
  • Causes include many agents including viral and bacterial strains, parasites, and chemicals (toxins).
  • Depending on the cause of food poisoning, the duration of the majority of food poisoning usually ranges from a few hours after exposure to contaminated food or fluid to several days.
  • Treatment of food poisoning depends on the cause; most people self-cure in a few days, but some causes may benefit from specific antibiotic or antiparasite treatments once the cause is identified.
  • Home remedies to soothe food poisoning symptoms may help speed recovery and may include:
    • Rest
    • Rehydration
    • Slowly begin to eat bland foods like rice, bananas, toast, gelatin
    • Avoid alcohol, nicotine, fatty, and seasoned or spicy foods)

What is the definition of food poisoning?

Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating or drinking food or water contaminated with viruses, bacteria, toxins, parasites, or chemicals. Typical symptoms of food poisoning are vomiting and diarrhea.

What foods are most commonly associated with food poisoning?

Foods most commonly associated with food poisoning include:

  • Eggs
  • Poultry
  • Meats
  • Unpasteurized milk or other fluids
  • Cheese,
  • Raw fruits and vegetables (usually unwashed
  • Nuts
  • Spices

What is the difference between food poisoning and gastroenteritis (stomach flu)?

Gastroenteritis (stomach flu) is defined as an infection or irritation of the gastrointestinal tract, especially the stomach or intestines. It is a slightly more specific term that describes a particular type of food poisoning. However, the term is used most often to describe stomach irritation or inflammation due to infection, including non-food-related infections.

What are the signs and symptoms of food poisoning?

The most common signs and symptoms of food poisoning from most causes are as follows:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

However, symptoms infrequently can get worse. Other symptoms include:

  • Blood in the stool or vomit
  • Dehydration
  • High fevers
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days
  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • Blurry vision
  • Numb, tingling, or burning sensations in the extremities
  • Bloating
  • Liver problems
  • Renal problems
  • Reactive arthritis
  • Seizures
  • Death

Symptoms of food poisoning sometimes depend on which organ system the poison effects; for example, the neurological system may be altered by neurotoxins like pesticides and botulinum toxin.

When a group of individuals experiences similar symptoms after eating or drinking similar foods, food poisoning may be suspected.