Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Food poisoning is a disease that is carried or transmitted to humans by contaminated foods or beverages.
Food poisoning is caused by substances in foods or beverages, including:
Infants and the elderly are at increased risk for food poisoning. Other factors that increase your chances of getting food poisoning include:
After you consume the contaminated food or beverage, there is a delay before symptoms arise. This delay is called an incubation period. It can last hours or weeks. Symptoms include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. If you have some of the food that you think made you sick, you may be asked to bring it in to be tested.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Most types of food poisoning improve in 12-48 hours. There aren't many treatments available to speed your recovery from food poisoning.
Drink plenty of fluids. If you are severely ill, you may need IV fluids.
Some types of bacterial food poisoning can be treated with antibiotics.
This includes the following:
If you have botulism poisoning, there is an antitoxin you can take.
If you are diagnosed with food poisoning, follow your doctor's
To help prevent food poisoning:
American Gastroenterological Association
Gateway to Government Information About Food Safety
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education
Food poisoning. American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/healthy/firstaid/basics/923.html. Updated February 2011. Accessed December 16, 2013.
Food poisoning. FoodSafety.gov website. Available at: http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/index.html. Accessed December 16, 2013.
Food poisoning. Nemours' KidsHealth.org website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/kid/ill_injure/sick/food_poisoning.html. Updated March 2012. Accessed December 16, 2013.
Last reviewed December 2013 by Peter Lucas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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