Foodborne illness occurs when food has:
- Bacteria or poisons and toxins made by them
- Amoebas or parasites
Problems may not start until hours or weeks after consuming the food or drink. They may be mild to severe.
Problems may be:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Belly pain or cramps
- Not urinating
- A very dry mouth or throat
- Muscle aches and pains
- Bloody stools or vomit
- Fever or chills
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may suspect foodborne illness based on symptoms. They may ask about suspect foods.
Tests may be done if the cause is not clear or symptoms are severe. Tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Stool tests
- Vomit tests
Most foodborne illness will improve in 12 to 48 hours. Most can recover at home. Symptoms can be managed with:
- Drinking plenty of fluids to replace those lost with diarrhea and vomiting
- Soft, bland foods until symptoms have passed
- Medicines, such as:
- Over the counter pain relievers
- Anti-diarrheal medicine
Some foodborne illness will need medical care. For example:
- Fluids may be given through IV to treat dehydration.
- Botulism needs to be treated with an antitoxin.
- Some types of infections may need antibiotics.
The risk of this problem may be lowered by:
- Only eating and drinking milk products that are pasteurized
- Practicing proper hand hygiene before touching food
- Cooking foods well
- Rinsing fresh fruits and vegetables and peeling them before eating them
- Not putting cooked meat on a surface that once had raw meat on it
- Using different tools for meat and other foods
- Not cooking or eating items that use raw egg, such as dressings and sauces
- Not eating prepared food that has been outside a refrigerator for more than 2 hours, or 1 hour in very hot weather
- Setting the refrigerator to below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius)
- To lower the risk when visiting places where this problem is common:
- Drink bottled water and do not order drinks with ice
- Only eat cooked fruits and vegetables
- Do not eat foods from street vendors
- Those with a weakened immune system or are pregnant should avoid foods with higher risk of problems such as:
- Raw shellfish
- Rare meat, hot dogs, deli meats, fermented or dry sausages
- Unpasteurized dairy products
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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