Every year, it is calculated that 1 out of 6 Americans, or approximately 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and in worst cases, 3,000 die from foodborne diseases.1 Food poisoning symptoms can be anywhere from mild to very serious and are often diagnosed based on a detailed history, including how long you’ve been sick, your symptoms, and specific foods you’ve eaten. But the good thing is that you can do first aid treatment to yourself or your family members at home. Therefore, it is necessary that you know the common signs and symptoms of food poisoning and how to deal with it at home.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
You may not know that you are experiencing symptoms of food poisoning, even at home. Depending on the germ you ingested, your symptoms may vary. Food poisoning is usually diagnosed based on a detailed history of symptoms, specific foods you’ve eaten, and the duration of sickness. Your healthcare provider will perform some physical examinations but it would be better if you could identify the common symptoms in order to have timely medical intervention when needed.
Once unsafe food or drink is swallowed, it may take hours or days to develop symptoms. The most common symptoms of food poisoning are an upset stomach, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.2 If you have symptoms of food poisoning, such as diarrhea or vomiting, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Most people have mild illnesses that last a few hours to several days, but if you experience serious complications in your body, you need to see your doctor immediately.
Food Poisoning Treatment: How to deal at home?
Food poisoning usually settles down or gets better without treatment within 48 hours or usually goes away in a few days3 but in order to help keep yourself more comfortable and prevent dehydration while you’re in the process of healing, you can try the following:
- Let your stomach settle down first. Stop eating and drinking for a few hours.
- Drink liquids to protect yourself against dehydration. You can take small sips of water or you might also try drinking clear soda, clear broth, or noncaffeinated sports drinks. Take small, consistent sips to make it easier to keep the fluids down. You might also try oral rehydration solutions if you have severe dehydration symptoms or diarrhea.
- Try probiotics. You may ask your doctor first for specific recommendations of
- Slowly ease back into eating. Little by little begin eating bland, low-fat, easy-to-digest foods like soda crackers, toast, gelatin, bananas, and rice.
- Avoid solid foods, dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and fatty or highly seasoned foods.
- Get plenty of rest. Illness and dehydration can weaken and tire you, so you need to get some rest to recharge your body.
- Don’t take/give over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medicines. Why? These might make the symptoms of food poisoning last longer. Ask your doctor first.
- If symptoms become more serious or get worse, call your doctor immediately.
When to see a doctor?
Call or see your doctor or healthcare provider immediately if you have symptoms that are severe, like bloody diarrhea, high fever, or your temperature is over 102°F, when measured in your mouth.2 Frequent vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down is another sign that can lead to dehydration. The signs of dehydration are little or no urination, a very dry mouth and throat, or feeling dizzy when standing up. Watch for diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days and does not improve. The worst case is that it may lead to dehydration or make you totally weak. Watch for signs of dehydration, which include extreme thirst, making little or no urine, dizziness, sunken eyes, and lightheadedness or weakness.
Food poisoning is described as an illness that comes on quickly after eating contaminated food, but the good news is that it usually goes away quickly, too. However, having knowledge of the symptoms of food poisoning and how to deal with this problem at home can help avoid worst case scenarios. Commonly, people recover in a couple of days with no lasting problems, but there are a few severe food poisoning cases that can necessitate a visit to the doctor or hospital.
- Key facts about food poisoning. (2021, June 7). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/food-poisoning.html
- Food poisoning symptoms. (2021, March 9). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/symptoms.html
- Food poisoning – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic. (2020, June 26). Mayo Clinic – Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-poisoning/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20356236