Food Poisoning

What is food poisoning?

Food poisoning is caused by an infection or irritation of your GI tract by bacteria, viruses, parasites or toxins in your food.

What are symptoms of food poisoning?

Depending on the culprit, the start of food poisoning symptoms can vary. Symptoms can start within hours, days, or less commonly, weeks of eating bad food.

For the majority of Americans, food poisoning symptoms start pretty quickly (That means, if you experience vomiting, normally it happens suddenly. There’s no advanced warning.)

Common symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • Diarrhea (unfortunately, one of the most common symptoms of food poisoning)
  • Nausea with vomiting
  • Abdominal pain and/or cramping

These symptoms, most of which cause the loss of nutrients and water from your body, often lead to dehydration. So if you have food poisoning, you may also experience symptoms of dehydration such as:

  • Thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased urination
  • Concentrated urine- yellow and odorous
  • Dizziness, headache

How do you treat food poisoning?

It is best to consult a doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of food poisoning because, although rare, some causes of food poisoning require antibiotic treatment or other OTC medication.

The most common cause of food poisoning Americans experience is viral, which is not treated with antibiotics. The treatment for this type of food poisoning is supportive: rehydration and relief of symptoms. Even though some food poisoning patients experience dehydration, it’s recommended to hydrate yourself by drinking fluids (rather than getting an IV).

Your doctor will make the call on what level of supportive care is needed.

When to see a doctor?

Again,some causes of food poisoning require antibiotic treatment or other OTC medication so it's best to consult a doctor to get medicine necessary to get back to better.

If you fall into one of the following categories, visit a doctor immediately:

  • Infants
  • Kids (especially at day care)
  • Pregnant women
  • Older adults (especially those in nursing homes)
  • Immunocompromised individuals
  • Severe symptoms
  • Cannot keep liquids down
  • Recent travel abroad

The most common viruses associated with food poisoning will clear on their own if you can keep liquids down and are only experiencing mild symptoms.

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