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Symptoms and Sources of Food Poisoning

Lady suffering from food poisoning symptoms and holding her stomach

Food poisoning symptoms may range from mild to severe and may differ depending on the germ you swallowed. The most common symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

After you consume a contaminated food or drink, it may take hours or days before you develop symptoms.

Complications

Most people have only mild illnesses, lasting a few hours to several days. However, some people need to be hospitalized, and some illnesses result in long-term health problems or even death. Infections transmitted by food can result in chronic arthritis, brain and nerve damage, and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which causes kidney failure.

Report a Foodborne Illness

If you believe you or someone you know got sick from food, even if you don’t know what food it was, please report it to your local health department. Reporting your illness may help public health officials identify a foodborne disease outbreak and keep others from getting sick.

When to See a Doctor for Food Poisoning

If you experience symptoms of food poisoning, such as diarrhea or vomiting, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

See your doctor or healthcare provider if you have symptoms that are severe, including:

  • High fever (temperature over 101.5°F, measured orally)
  • Blood in stools
  • Frequent vomiting that prevents keeping liquids down (which can lead to dehydration)
  • Signs of dehydration, including a marked decrease in urination, a very dry mouth and throat, or feeling dizzy when standing up.
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days

Symptoms and Sources of 10 Foodborne Germs

Germ and Typical Time for Symptoms to Appear Typical Signs and Symptoms  Common Food Sources
Campylobacter
2 – 5 days
Diarrhea (often bloody), stomach cramps/pain, fever Raw or undercooked poultryraw (unpasteurized) milk, and contaminated water
Clostridium botulinum
18 – 36 hours
Double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech. Difficulty swallowing, breathing and dry mouth. Muscle weakness and paralysis. Symptoms start in the head and move down as severity increases Improperly canned or fermented foods, usually homemade. Prison-made illicit alcohol.
Clostridium perfringens
6 – 24 hours
Diarrhea, stomach cramps. Vomiting and fever are uncommon. Usually begins suddenly and lasts for less than 24 hours Beef or poultry, especially large roasts; gravies; dried or precooked foods
Cyclospora
1 week
Watery diarrhea, loss of appetite and weight loss. Stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue. Raw fruits or vegetables, and herbs
Escherichia coli
3 – 4 days
Severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Around 5-10% of people diagnosed with this infection develop a life-threatening complication. Raw or undercooked ground beef, raw (unpasteurized) milk and juice, raw vegetables (such as lettuce), and raw sprouts, contaminated water
Listeria
1 – 4 weeks
Pregnant women typically experience fever and other flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and muscle aches. Infections during pregnancy can lead to serious illness or even death in newborns.
Other people (most often older adults): headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions in addition to fever and muscle aches.
Raw (unpasteurized) milk, soft cheeses made with raw milk, raw sprouts, melons, hot dogs, pâtés, lunch meats, and cold cuts, smoked seafood
Norovirus
12 – 48 hours
Diarrhea, nausea/stomach pain, vomiting Infected person, contaminated food like leafy greens, fresh fruitsshellfish (such as oysters), or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces
Salmonella
12 – 72 hours
Diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, vomiting Eggs, raw or undercooked poultry or meat, unpasteurized milk or juice, cheese, raw fruits and vegetables
Staphylococcus aureus (Staph)
30 minutes – 6 hours
Diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting Foods that are handled by people and not cooked (sliced meat, puddings, pastries, and sandwiches). Raw (unpasteurized) milk and cheese made from it.
Vibrio
1 – 4 days
Watery diarrhea, nausea. stomach cramps, vomiting, fever, chills Raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters

Learn more about how to prevent food poisoning >

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