Food Poisoning: Reasons, Symptoms, and Management

Research Based
Medically reviewed by - Dr Qudsiya Raiees, MD Written by - Dr. Shaheen Shah


What is food poisoning?

Food poisoning is a sickness caused by eating unclean or poisonous food. It is not usually severe, and people get better with time. Occasionally, food poisoning might cause rigorous illness and complications.1Overview | Researched based study from

Food poisoning is a sickness caused by eating unclean or poisonous food.


Facts of food poisoning

  • Food poisoning never goes unnoticed
  • The symptoms of food poisoning are based on the infection source
  • Most food poisoning cases get resolved in around seven days with or without medication
  • Food poisoning is the chief reason for gastroenteritis(swelling and redness of the intestine and stomach lining)1Facts | Researched based study from


What are the causes of food poisoning ?

The chief reason for food poisoning is contamination or spoiling of food by germs as they can be found in almost all food items. Microbes or other substances that may pollute the food are as follows, such as

  • Virus
  • Bacteria
  • Fungus
  • Parasite
  • Chemicals
  • Toxins (Poison produced by bacteria, molds) 2Causes | Researched based study from

Some other reasons include the following

  • Eating half-cooked or raw food
  • Sick people cooking food that doesn’t wash their hands before cooking
  • Consuming contaminated dairy products and egg

Bacteria responsible for food poisoning are as follows


  • Salmonella food poisoning occurs from half-cooked or raw food
  • Salmonella can be found in pork, beef, vegetables, and processed food
  • Salmonella remains the prime cause of food poisoning in the United States.

Campylobacter (dangerous bacteria)

  • Food poisoning occurs from half-cooked meat, egg, poultry, and unprocessed milk and water
  • It causes gastrointestinal discomfort that remains for weeks
  • It causes bloody diarrhea


  • Found in raw vegetables and half-cooked food
  • E.coli shiga toxin( biological poison) causes intestinal pain and diarrhea in humans.


  • Found in raw vegetables, mayonnaise salads, shellfish
  • It causes diarrhea with blood

Staphylococcus aureus

  • It is often transferred through handling food items with contaminated hands.
  • Often found in dairy products, sandwiches, cream cakes, milk, and poultry
  • It causes diarrhea and vomiting


  • Found in raw sprouts, meat, soft cheese
  • It causes listeriosis (food-borne infection)
  • It is dangerous for a pregnant woman

Virus causing food poisoning are as follows


  • Food poisoning occurs by consuming half-cooked leafy vegetables, fruits, and shellfish.
  • It causes stomach flu with diarrhea and vomiting

Hepatitis A virus

  • It spread through shellfish and stool-contaminated water
  • It causes diarrhea, vomiting, and appetite loss

Other parasites causing food poisoning are as follows

  • Toxoplasma gondii
  • Cryptosporidium
  • Trichinella
  • Giardia Lamblia
  • Toxoplasma gondii food poisoning is the chief cause of death in the United States 3Causes | Researched based study from


Symptoms of food poisoning

Common symptoms

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Mild fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Body weakness
  • Appetite loss

Symptoms of severe food poisoning

  • Diarrhea continues for more than three days
  • High fever (102 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Numbness of the skin
  • Sore throat and difficulty in swallowing
  • Difficulty in speaking
  • Change in voice
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty in limb movement
  • Dry mouth
  • Blood in stool or urine
  • Little or no urination
  • Lightheadedness4Symptoms | Researched based study from


Who is vulnerable to food poisoning ?

  • Pregnant woman
  • People with weakened immunity(Autoimmune disease)
  • Aged people (above 65 years)
  • Infants and children
  • People on immunosuppressant medication

The immunosuppressant medication suppresses the immune response and hence makes it more prone to any infection, including food poisoning 5Vulnerability | Researched based study from .


Complications of food poisoning

Common complication

  • Severe dehydration(occurs due to heavy fluid loss from the body)

Rare complication

  • Miscarriage and stillbirth ( caused by listeria infection during pregnancy)
  • Meningitis( swelling of the protective membrane around the brain)
  • Sepsis(body’s extreme response to infection)
  • Arthritis (pain and swelling of the joints)
  • Kidney damage Irritable bowel syndrome(disease of the intestine)
  • Guillain Bare syndrome( a condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the nervous system)
  • Bacteria in the bloodstream (causes disease and also spread to other body parts)
  • Blood clots in the kidneys (E.coli causes blood clots and obstructs the kidney’s filtering ability)6Complications | Researched based study from


Management of food poisoning

Staying hydrated

  • Drinking coconut water, fruit juice, and electrolyte drinks may help relieve excessive tiredness and replenish the carbohydrate in the body.7Management | Researched based study from
  • Drinking herbal tea such as chamomile and dandelion helps relieve stomach discomfort.

Take enough rest

  • Taking adequate is essential to recover from the infection and dehydration.


  • Azithromycin-It is an antibiotic used against campylobacter
  • Nitazoxanide-It is used for diarrhea caused by protozoa cryptosporidium
  • Albendazole-It is an antiparasitic medication and is used against beef tapeworm, pork tapeworm, liver fluke, lung fluke
  • Biltricide-It is an antiparasitic medication against fish tapeworm
  • Mebendazole-It is an antiparasitic drug used to treat worm infection
  • Tinidazole-It is an antibiotic and antiparasitic drug used to treat Giardia lamblia(parasitic microorganism) infection.
  • Ampicillin-It is an antibiotic for treating Listeria monocytogenes (rod-shaped bacterium) infection.
  • Ciprofloxacin-It is an antibiotic used to treat Shigella bacterial infection
  • Over-the-counter medication -Pepto-Bismol and Imodium help treat diarrhea and repress nausea and vomiting.7Management | Researched based study from
  • However, consulting a physician before taking any over-the-counter medication is always advisable.


  • Doctors may prescribe antitoxin for C.botulinum bacterial infection
  • Antitoxin is a specific antibody used to deactivate particular toxins and also destroy bacteria and other microbes

Treatment in severe cases

Intravenous fluid therapy

  • Intravenous therapy injects fluid, nutrients, and medication into a person’s vein.
  • It is given to fast relieve the symptoms of food poisoning

Mechanical ventilation

  • Mechanical ventilation is an instrument to help with breathing
  • It is advised in severe cases of C.botulinum food poisoning 7Management | Researched based study from


Diet during food poisoning.

Diet during food poisoning

One should consume the following solid bland foods which are easy to digest until diarrhea subsides, such as

  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Saltine crackers
  • Boiled vegetables
  • Boiled potatoes
  • Chicken soup
  • Fruit juices
  • Electrolyte drinks

Foods to avoid during the food poisoning period

  • Fried food
  • Fatty food
  • Spicy food
  • High sugar food
  • Caffeine drinks
  • Processed food
  • Cheese products
  • Milk


Prevention of food poisoning

  • Regularly washing hands before handling food items and eating
  • Ensure eating full-cooked meat and eggs
  • Proper washing of vegetables and fruits after bringing them from the market
  • Thorough washing of the utensils, plates, and other items in the kitchen
  • Ensure proper storage of food items in air-tight containers
  • Cleaning the interior of the refrigeration every month to avoid food contamination
  • Discard the bakery items with molds
  • Discard the food that is not stored properly 8Prevention | Researched based study from


Key Takeaways

  • Food poisoning is common among people of all ages
  • Most food poisoning cases recover within a few days
  • Food poisoning is rarely severe and fatal
  • It is always advisable to consult a physician in case of severe food poisoning symptoms.
Disclaimer: The user acknowledges that this article's information is being offered for informational purposes only. Every attempt has been made to guarantee that the article is informational and correct. If they have any doubts or questions about their health, we firmly advise our readers to visit a doctor or other healthcare professional.

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