Food poisoning is caused by eating contaminated food. Luckily, most cases do not last long or require medical intervention. The main culprits of food poisoning are bacteria, such as salmonella or E. coli. However, certain viruses and parasites can cause symptoms too. Food poisoning symptoms can appear a few hours after eating to as long as a few weeks later, for certain types of bacteria and parasites.
Nausea is often one of the first symptoms of food poisoning. It is also one of the more severe, as the person will often feel continuously sick to their stomach. After consuming something tainted, nausea can set in and manifest as dizziness and an urge to throw up. Though this symptom can begin shortly after eating, it more often begins a few hours later. Drinking clear liquids such as water or tea can help alleviate this sensation. A few hours later, bland foods like crackers or plain bread may help settle the stomach.
Another common symptom of food poisoning is diarrhea. As with nausea, the body is trying to expel the contaminated substance from the body. Though a highly distressing symptom, it is important to let the body go through this process, as opposed to trying to stop it with medications. Additionally, it is vital to remain well hydrated during bouts of diarrhea, as the body is using up a lot of fluids in the process.
Stomach cramps are a result of the muscles contracting, which causes pain. This symptom can make movement painful, and it may persist or come in spasms. In most cases of food poisoning, stomach cramps last for a few hours, during which time nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are also common.
Loss of Appetite
Losing your appetite is a natural reaction to food poisoning. After ingesting something that has spoiled, the body is likely to reject similar foods for some time, even beyond the illness. The body requires food to have the energy to fight the infection, so it is important to find foods that are palatable, such as bland broth soups and plain, white flour foods like crackers and bread.
One of the most debilitating symptoms of food poisoning is weakness. The infection can make it difficult to complete daily activities. Weakness will usually last for a few days, depending on the severity. The symptom is often the result of dehydration from diarrhea or vomiting. It can also be related to a drop in blood sugar from low food and beverage intake. It is important to drink fluids. If you can’t hold them down, seek medical attention.
People who experience food poisoning usually report fatigue as a result of the body working hard to remove the infection. Fatigue can also come from dehydration. Rest is one of the best things for recovery at this time, though with food poisoning this can be difficult when cramps and nausea call for frequent bathroom trips. However, sleeping allows the body to focus all its energy on fighting the infection.
When we consume foods that are bad for our body and develop food poisoning, the body immediately kicks into an infection-fighting mode. Along with attempting to remove the substance through vomiting or diarrhea, increasing the internal temperature can help kill the bacteria. Resting and remaining hydrated are the best steps during this phase of the illness. Cold compresses can cool the body down. Though this symptom should pass, monitoring body temperature with a thermometer can identify the need to seek medical attention if the fever gets too high.
Sweating and Chills
Another standard response to food poisoning and the resulting fever is alternating sweating and chills. This is one more reaction to the body’s efforts to heal itself. Raising the internal temperature will help kill off the infection, but it can result in discomfort and fluctuating body heat. Like any healthy cause of sweating, it is essential to replenish lost fluids to avoid dehydration.
The bacteria that cause botulism, as well as certain toxins in fish, can cause difficulty swallowing, along with other symptoms. The muscles in the esophagus become stiff and may spasm, which can sometimes make breathing feel difficult. If you experience this symptom, get immediate medical attention as this can be a medical emergency.
More Severe Symptoms
If food poisoning progresses beyond a fleeting case, it may require medical attention. Symptoms that indicate the need for a doctor, include blood in stool or vomit, temperatures above 102 degrees Fahrenheit, excessive vomiting that makes it impossible to remain hydrated, and diarrhea lasting more than three days.