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:
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:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be asked to provide a sample of your stool or vomit for testing. If you have some of the food that you think made you sick, you may be asked to bring it in to be tested. Blood tests may be done to asses kidney function, blood salts and acid-base balance, and the presence of a blood infection. A urinalysis may also be performed.
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
The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education
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Food poisoning. American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Doctor.org website. Available at:
http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/healthy/firstaid/basics/923.html. Updated February 2011. Accessed March 22, 2013.
Food poisoning. FoodSafety.gov website. Available at: http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/index.html. Accessed March 22, 2013.
Food poisoning. Nemours' KidsHealth.org website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/kid/ill_injure/sick/food_poisoning.html. Updated March 2012. Accessed March 22, 2013.
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Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 1998.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Daus Mahnke, 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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