What Are the Symptoms of Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning” is a broad term that can actually cover a whole lot of different infections.

Your exact symptoms and their severity will vary. That will depend on the kind of bacteria, virus, or parasite that’s infected you, how much is in your system, and how well your immune system is fighting it off.

Despite the wide range of types, most cases of food poisoning cause some mix of the following:

If you have a mild case, you might think you have a stomach flu or virus. You may get better without any treatment. But some people have such bad symptoms that they may need to go to the hospital.

Learn more about the symptoms and when to call the doctor.

Signs You Have Food Poisoning

Cramps in your stomach and gut, diarrhea, and vomiting may start as early as 1 hour after eating tainted food and as late as 10 days or longer. It depends on what is causing the infection.

Some other possible, common symptoms of a variety of food poisonings might include:

Signs of Botulism

You’ve probably heard of the some of the bad bugs that can cause food poisoning:

You’ve probably also heard of one of the nastiest: botulism, a rare but severe type of bacterial food poisoning. Symptoms of botulism might include:

  • Slurred speech or blurred vision
  • Muscle weakness
  • Hard time swallowing
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle paralysis from the head down through the body
  • Vomiting

Call 911 if you see any symptoms of botulism in yourself or a loved one.

When Should I Call a Doctor?

A mild case usually passes on its own with just rest and lots of fluids. You should call a doctor, however, if you or a loved one have:

  • Any signs of dehydration: dry mouth, little or no urination, dizziness, or sunken eyes
  • Any diarrhea in a newborn or infant
  • Inability to hold down liquids without vomiting
  • Diarrhea that lasts longer than 2 days (1 day in a child) or is severe
  • Severe gut pain or vomiting
  • Fever of 102 F or higher, or a rectal temperature of 100.4 F in a baby younger than 3 months 
  • Stools that are black, tarry, or bloody
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling in your arms
  • Blurry vision
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea or flulike illness in pregnant women
  • Jaundice (yellow skin), which can be a sign of hepatitis A
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on April 02, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Mayo Clinic: “Food Poisoning.”

UCLA Health: “Food Poisoning.”

FoodSafety.gov: “Symptoms of Food Poisoning.”

Kliegman, R. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th Edition, Saunders, 2011.

National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse: "Diarrhea."

Feldman, M. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease, 9th Edition, Saunders, 2010.

FamilyDoctor.org: “Food Poisoning,” "Fever in Infants and Children: Treatment."

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