Food Poisoning Symptoms
You can get sick with food poisoning after swallowing certain germs, like Salmonella or E. coli. Your symptoms may vary, depending on the germ you swallowed. Symptoms can range from mild to serious and can last for a few hours or several days.
The most common symptoms of food poisoning are:
- Stomach pain or cramps
If you have diarrhea or vomiting, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration (not having enough water in your body).
Should I See a Doctor for Food Poisoning?
See a doctor if you have any symptoms that are severe, including:
- Bloody diarrhea
- Diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days
- High fever (temperature over 102°F)
- Vomiting so often that you cannot keep liquids down
- Signs of dehydration, which include not urinating (peeing) much, a dry mouth and throat, feeling dizzy when standing up
See your doctor if you are pregnant and have a fever and other flu-like symptoms. Some mild infections can cause problems with pregnancy.
Serious Health Problems and Long-Term Effects From Food Poisoning
Most people have mild illnesses, but some infections spread by food are serious or even life-threatening. Some people may need to be hospitalized, and some illnesses lead to other health problems, including:
- Kidney damage
- Hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can cause kidney failure
- Brain and nerve damage
For some people, these health problems can last for weeks or months after recovering from the foodborne illness. For others, they never go away.
How Soon Do Symptoms Start?
Some germs make you sick within a few hours after you swallow them. Others may take a few days to make you sick. This table provides details about the symptoms caused by different germs, when they usually start, and common sources for those germs. Search the table for symptoms you are having.
Some germs make you sick within a few hours after you swallow them. Others may take a few days to make you sick. This list provides details about the symptoms caused by different germs, when they usually start, and common sources for those germs. Review the list for symptoms you are having.
30 minutes to 8 hours
Nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea
- Germ: Staphylococcus aureus (Staph food poisoning)
- Common food sources: Foods that are not cooked after handling, such as sliced meats, puddings, pastries, and sandwiches
Within 24 hours
6 to 24 hours
Diarrhea, stomach cramps that last for less than 24 hours—vomiting and fever are not common
- Germ: Clostridium perfringens
- Common food sources: Meat, poultry, gravies, and other foods cooked in large batches and held at an unsafe temperature
6 hours to 6 days
Diarrhea (can be bloody), fever, stomach cramps, vomiting
- Germ: Salmonella
- Common food sources: Raw or undercooked chicken, turkey, and other meats; eggs; unpasteurized (raw) milk and juice; raw fruits and vegetables
- Other sources: Many animals, including backyard poultry, reptiles and amphibians, and rodents (pocket pets)
12 to 48 hours
Diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, stomach pain—fever, headache, and body aches are also possible
- Germ: Norovirus
- Common food sources: Leafy greens, fresh fruits, shellfish (such as raw oysters), contaminated water
- Other sources: infected person, touching surfaces that have the virus on them
18 to 36 hours
Difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness, double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, and difficulty moving eyes – symptoms start in the head and move down as the illness gets worse
- Germ: Clostridium botulinum (Botulism)
- Common food sources: Improperly canned or fermented foods, homemade illicit alcohol (pruno).
2 to 5 days
Diarrhea (often bloody), fever, stomach cramps
- Germ: Campylobacter
- Common food sources: Raw or undercooked poultry, raw (unpasteurized) milk, contaminated water
- Other sources: Pets (including cats and dogs)
3 to 4 days
Severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), vomiting
- Germ: E. coli (Escherichia coli)
- Common food sources: Raw or undercooked ground beef, raw (unpasteurized) milk and juice, raw vegetables (such as lettuce), raw sprouts, and contaminated water
- Long-term effects: Around 5–10% of people diagnosed with E. coli develop a life-threatening health problem called hemolytic uremic syndrome
Watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps, bloating, increased gas, nausea, fatigue
- Germ: Cyclospora
- Common food sources: Raw fruits or vegetables and herbs
Fever and flu-like symptoms (such as muscle aches and fatigue), headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and seizures
- Germ: Listeria (invasive illness)
- Common food sources: Queso fresco and other soft cheeses, raw sprouts, melons, hot dogs, pâtés, deli meats, smoked fish, and raw (unpasteurized) milk
- People who are pregnant: Infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn. Call the doctor right away if you have a fever and feel more tired and achy than usual.
* Most often older adults and people with weakened immune systems
If you think you or someone you know got sick from food, please report it to your local health department. Report it even if you don’t know what food made you sick. Reporting an illness can help public health officials identify a foodborne disease outbreak and keep others from getting sick.