You may develop food poisoning if you eat food that has become contaminated. If you do, you’ll be very eager to learn how long you’ll have to put up with it. With symptoms that include nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, you’ll want it to end as soon as possible. If it is serious enough, you can even be hospitalized. For most people, though, you can resolve food poisoning with patience and without treatment.
So How Long Does Food Poisoning Last?
Most cases of food poisoning last one to two days, and the symptoms resolve without medication. If you have symptoms for longer than two days, consult your physician, or head for an urgent care center if it’s after office hours.
The length of time it takes for symptoms of food poisoning to develop depends on where and how you were poisoned. If food is contaminated with staph, you can develop symptoms within an hour after you eat.
If the issue was campylobacter, a bacterial contaminant, you may not exhibit signs for 10 days or even longer. If parasites were in the food you ate, the development of symptoms can take even longer. At times, the wait between eating and signs of food poisoning make it difficult to determine what you ate that was contaminated. Although most cases of food poisoning resolve themselves in a couple days, you may also develop an infection that can last for months or possibly longer.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
If you develop food poisoning, the signs can begin in a mild way, but become more severe in a short amount of time. The signs most commonly seen are nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. If you have diarrhea, it may contain blood or mucus.
Some people with food poisoning also experience lethargy, loss of appetite, aching muscles and severe cramps in the stomach. Depending on what the source of poisoning was, you could have chills and a fever. The symptoms often mimic those of the stomach flu.
How to determine if you have Stomach Flu or Food Poisoning
It can be difficult to tell if you have a case of food poisoning or stomach flu. Your first sign may be abdominal pain. The pain associated with food poisoning is sharper than the aches and pains of the stomach flu. Sudden symptom onset may also mean food poisoning, since the flu takes more time to develop.
If you have food poisoning, you may develop diarrhea and vomiting that is more severe than the stomach flu, as a rule. Your body is instinctively trying to get rid of whatever does not belong in it. You may also note that other people, who ate the same food as you, at roughly the same time, will also become ill at about the same time. If you have the flu, others in your family, school or workplace may not develop symptoms, if they do at all, for a few days.
Answering the query “How long does food poisoning last?” is often a key in determining the problem. Nasty illnesses and viruses usually linger for a longer time than one to two days, by which time food poisoning has usually run its course.
When should you see a Doctor?
If you think you may have been exposed to food poisoning in something you have eaten, seeing a doctor will help you determine if that is the problem. Keep your eyes open for severe symptoms like a high fever and dehydration.
Contact your physician right away if you develop:
- Severe diarrhea that lasts two days or longer
- Signs of dehydration, like decreased urination, sunken eyes or dry mouth
- Significant nausea or vomiting
- Severe pain in the abdomen
- A fever higher than 102F
- Bloody, black or tarry stools
Signs of toxin or chemical poisoning, like dizziness, stomach pain, confusion, salivation and tearing of the eyes may occur within a half hour of eating food that was contaminated.
If you have a toddler or infant with these issues, this is cause for concern. Contact your physician immediately. If your child is three months of age or younger, and has a fever higher than 100.4F, he should see his physician, always.
If you are experiencing loss of speech, blurred vision, dry mouth, difficulty in swallowing and weakness in the muscles, call 911 immediately. These are botulism poisoning signs, and this can be fatal if it isn’t treated swiftly.
How should you treat Food Poisoning?
In severe cases of food poisoning, you may need to take antibiotics to help your body in fighting off the toxins. Listeria, for example, responds quite well if you take antibiotics. However, outside of severe cases like this, most common types of food poisoning will not require antibiotics.
Replacement of Lost Fluids
Food poisoning brings with it severe diarrhea, causing your body to lose electrolytes and fluids quickly. You must replace those fluids as soon as you can. Drink Gatorade or Pedia-Lyte to replace what you have lost. If you have severe food poisoning, you may need IV fluids.
Get some Rest
If you experience food poisoning symptoms, don’t eat or drink anything else for several hours. This gives the stomach time to recover a bit. Avoid spicy foods, nicotine, caffeine, dairy foods and alcohol. It’s best not to use an anti-diarrhea medication, since it may keep your body from purging the toxins. Once you feel like trying to eat again, stick to bland foods for the first few days.
How can you Prevent Food Poisoning?
There are multiple ways in which you can ensure that all your food is safe to consume. Prepare foods as directed, heat them thoroughly, and refrigerate any leftovers right after the meal.
Wash your hands before you prepare any food, and between different foods as you are doing the food prep. Veggies and fruits should be thoroughly washed before you eat them. Make sure your countertops are kept clean.
If you’re dining at a restaurant, be sure that any meat is cooked thoroughly. Don’t eat any food that looks moldy or odd. Check for and have the servers replace dirty silverware or plates.
If your immune system is compromised, or you’re pregnant, avoid foods like unpasteurized juice or milk and soft cheese. These foods sometimes become contaminated by listeria, and this can harm you, and can cause your baby to die.