Food Poisoning Symptoms
What Are Symptoms of Food Poisoning?
Viewer Question: Is it necessary to conduct a culture of feces or vomit in order to determine that a patient suffers from food poisoning?
Doctor's Response: Food poisoning is a general term that refers to gastrointestinal illnesses (usually diarrhea and/or vomiting) caused by food that is contaminated with:
- viruses, or
- toxic substances.
The actual cause of most individual episodes of food poisoning, however, never is pursued (for example, a culture is not done) since most episodes are mild or moderate in severity and are over in a few hours to a few days. In fact, the diagnosis of food poisoning usually is made only presumptively, based on the affected individual's symptoms and the circumstances. Even in outbreaks of suspected food poisoning that involve many people, when careful studies are done, a specific cause is found no more than half of the time.
Bacteria are the cause of most outbreaks of food poisoning for which a specific cause is determined. Bacteria cause food poisoning in three ways.