Food Poisoning (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
In this Article
- Food poisoning facts
- What is food poisoning?
- What are the types of food poisoning?
- What are the causes of food poisoning?
- What are the signs and symptoms of food poisoning?
- Are food poisoning and stomach flu the same thing?
- When should the doctor be called for food poisoning?
- How is food poisoning diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for food poisoning?
- Are there any home remedies for food poisoning?
- How long does food poisoning last?
- What are the complications of food poisoning?
- How can food poisoning be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for food poisoning?
- Summer Food Safety FAQs
- Find a local Doctor in your town
What are the signs and symptoms of food poisoning?
Food poisoning most commonly causes:
- abdominal cramps,
- vomiting and
This can cause significant amounts of fluid loss and with nausea and vomiting, it may be difficult to replace that fluid, leading to dehydration. In developing countries where infectious epidemics cause diarrheal illnesses , thousands of people die because of dehydration.
As noted in the section above, other organ systems may be infected and affected by food poisoning. Symptoms will depend upon what organ system is involved (for example, encephalopathy due to brain infection).
Are food poisoning and stomach flu the same thing?
They may or may not be, depending if the causative agent is transmitted by contaminated food, or if the agent is transmitted by non-food mechanisms such as body secretions. Most health care practitioners equate stomach flu to viral gastroenteritis (gastro=stomach + entero= intestine + itis= inflammation). Stomach flu is a non-specific term that describes an illness that usually resolves within 24 hours and is caused commonly by the adenovirus, Norwalk virus or rotavirus, most commonly found in children.
If numerous cases of "stomach flu" occur in a situation where many people have been eating, it certainly may be considered food poisoning. Norwalk virus is responsible for many cases of food borne illness outbreaks on cruise ships.
When should the doctor be called for food poisoning?
With a clear fluid diet and rest, most infections resolve on their own within 24 hours. A health care practitioner should be contacted if the vomiting and diarrhea are associated with one or more of the following symptoms:
- blood in the stools,
- signs of dehydration including lightheadedness when standing, weakness, decreased urination,
- diarrhea that lasts longer than 72 hours, and/or
- intractable vomiting that prevents oral hydration.
Viewers share their comments
- Submit »
Weight Loss Wisdom
Get tips, recipes and inspiration.