How Long Does Food Poisoning Last?

An illness that can result from eating or drinking contaminated food or beverages, food poisoning raleigh nc affects roughly 1 in 6 people in the United States each year.  Anyone can fall victim to food poisoning but infants, young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems or chronic illness are at the highest risk.

The majority of food poisoning cases are attributed to bacteria but viruses, parasites, chemicals, and metals can also lead to illness.  This article will discuss what the symptoms of food poisoning are, how long they last, and various treatment options.

What are Common Food Poisoning Symptoms?

Food poisoning symptoms vary based on the contaminate but for most people, symptoms include a combination of:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain or cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Fever

Less frequently, patients may suffer from:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • High fever (above 102°F)
  • Muscle aches
  • Blurred vision
  • Skin rash/itching

How Quickly Do Symptoms Develop?

The length of time before symptoms develop varies based on the cause of illness.  For example, symptoms from Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) exposure begin within 30 minutes whereas symptoms of Listeria illness can take up to 4 weeks before presenting.  In general, the most common forms of food poisoning lead to symptoms within 30 minutes to 2 days after exposure.

How Long Do Food Poisoning Symptoms Last?

Most cases of food poisoning will take 1 to 5 days to fully recover from.  Young children, elderly, pregnant women, and those with underlying medical or immune system conditions are at increased risk of developing severe illness from food poisoning.  For these patients, contacting a doctor or healthcare provider as soon as possible is advised if food poisoning is suspected.

How Can Food Poisoning Be Treated?

  • If a fever accompanies the food poisoning, get as much rest as possible. Discuss with a doctor or healthcare provider if taking ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin to control the fever is an option.  Medicines containing salicylates or aspirin should always be discussed with a doctor prior to use with children or teens as these can lead to a serious illness (Reye’s syndrome).  Aspirin and ibuprofen can also cause stomach bleeding and the risk increases with age.  Unless told to do so by a doctor, do not take these medicines for more than 10 days consecutively.
  • Use a heating pad or hot water bottle to combat any stomach pain or cramps. Ensure the water bottle is covered or the heating pad set to low so as not to burn the skin.
  • Because nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are common with food poisoning, it may be beneficial to let the bowels settle for a few hours. Avoid eating anything for a few hours and stick to drinking clear liquids such as water, broth, diluted juice, or electrolyte drinks (sports drinks).  Carbonated beverages as well as those containing caffeine or alcohol should be avoided.  Avoiding dehydration is important as it can lead to serious complications.
  • If it does not worsen stomach cramps or diarrhea, eating is OK but patients should stick to easy to digest foods such as toast, crackers, bananas, rice, gelatin, or applesauce. Patients will likely be able to resume their normal diet within 2 to 3 days but should avoid greasy, fatty, excessively spicy, or heavy foods for several days once symptoms subside.

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