Symptoms of Food Poisoning, Causes and Treatment


Food poisoning is a general term for health problems arising from eating contaminated food. Food may be contaminated by bacteria, viruses, environmental toxins, or toxins present within the food itself, such as the poisons in some mushrooms or certain seafood. Symptoms of food poisoning usually involve nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. Some food-borne toxins can affect the nervous system.

Food poisoning comes from eating foods that contain germs like bad bacteria or toxins, which are poisonous substances. Bacteria are all around us, so mild cases of food poisoning are common. You may have had mild food poisoning — with diarrhea and an upset stomach — but your mom or dad just called it a stomach bug or stomach virus.


The symptoms of food poisioning range from upset stomach, diarrhea, fever, vomiting, abdominal cramps and dehydration, to more severe illness such as paralysis and meningitis. The diagnosis of food poisoning is done by testing the stool.

Most food poisioning effects (symptoms) on body clear up in a few days on its own. In the case of continued illness seek medical advice. Children, elders, pregnant women and the persons who use antacids heavily are at more risk of getting food poison.


Food poisoning occurs when an individual consumes food that has been contaminated by a poisoning agent. These agents can include toxins, bacteria, viruses, or parasites. There are more than 250 known agents that have the ability to cause food poisoning. Poisoning from a bacterial agent is a common occurrence. The most prevalent types of food-borne bacteria are E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, Bacillus cereus, Campylobacter, and Shigella. Because bacteria needs time to multiply, the symptoms for bacterial food poisonings may not manifest until 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated food.

Food usually becomes contaminated from poor sanitation or preparation. Food handlers who do not wash their hands after using the bathroom or have infections themselves often cause contamination. Improperly packaged food stored at the wrong temperature also promotes contamination.


Usually, the symptoms of food poisoning disappear without the need for treatment. If symptoms are severe or persist for more than 3-4 days, talk to your doctor. If an elderly person or child is affected by food poisoning you need to talk to a doctor immediately. Keep a sample of any remaining food as well as a sample of the patient’s feces, which can be tested for the presence of infectious microorganisms. If the cause is non-infectious, such as poisonous mushrooms, you may need to be treated urgently to eliminate the poison from your body.

Treatment of food poisoning is usually aimed at preventing dehydration. In severe cases fluids and salts may be administered intravenously in hospital. Typically, antibotics are prescribed only if specific bacteria have been identified. Patients usually recover quite rapidly from an attack of food poisoning and rarely experience longlasting health consequences. In very rare cases, there is a risk of septicemia if bacteria spread into the blood stream. Both dehydration and septicemia can cause shock – a condition that is sometimes fatal.