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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.

Most people have only mild illnesses, lasting a few hours to several days. However, some develop severe illness requiring hospitalization, 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.

Symptoms and Sources of Ten Foodborne Germs

Common foodborne illnesses
Germ Typical Time for Symptoms to Appear Typical Signs and Symptoms  Common Food Sources
Campylobacter, Bacteria 2 to 5 days Diarrhea (often bloody), stomach cramps/pain, fever
Clostridium botulinum, Bacteria  18 to 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, Bacteria 6 to 24 hours (typically 8 to 12). The illness usually begins suddenly and lasts for less than 24 hours Diarrhea, stomach cramps. Vomiting and fever are uncommon
  • Beef
  • Poultry
  • Gravies
  • Dried or precooked foods
Cyclospora, Parasite 1 week Watery diarrhea, loss of appetite and weight loss. Stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue. Vomiting, body aches, headache, fever, and other flu-like symptoms may occur. Raw fruits, vegetables, and herbs
Escherichia coli, Shiga toxin-producing, such as O157, Bacteria  3 to 4 days after exposure, but may be as short as 1 day or long as 10 days Severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. If there is fever, usually it is less than 101˚F.
  • Around 5-10% of people diagnosed with this infection develop a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure.
Listeria, Bacteria 1 to 4 weeks Pregnant women typically experience fever and other flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and muscle aches. However, infections during pregnancy usually lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
People other than pregnant women (most often adults aged 65 and older) headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions in addition to fever and muscle aches.
Norovirus, Virus 12 to 48 hours Diarrhea, nausea/stomach pain, vomiting Can spread from an infected person from contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces.

Leafy greens (such as lettuce), fresh fruits, shellfish (such as oysters)

Salmonella, Bacteria 12 to 72 hours Diarrhea, Fever, stomach cramps, vomiting
Staphylococcus aureus (Staph), Bacteria 30 minutes to 6 hours Diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting Foods that are handled by people and not cooked. Examples are sliced meat, puddings, pastries, and sandwiches. People can also spread the germs to food when they touch it without first washing their hands. Also from nnpasteurized (raw) milk and cheese made from it.
Vibrio, Bacteria 24 hours Watery diarrhea, nausea. stomach cramps, vomiting, fever, chills Raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters

When to See a Doctor for Food Poisoning

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.

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