Food Poisoning

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Food Poisoning Dangers Slideshow

Quick GuideFood Poisoning: 20 Common and Uncommon Types, Signs and Symptoms

Food Poisoning: 20 Common and Uncommon Types, Signs and Symptoms

What are the signs and symptoms of food poisoning?

Food poisoning most commonly causes:

  • abdominal cramps,
  • vomiting, and
  • diarrhea.

This can cause significant amounts of fluid loss and diarrhea along with nausea and vomiting may make it difficult to replace lost fluid, leading to dehydration. In developing countries where infectious epidemics cause diarrheal illnesses, thousands of people die because of dehydration.

As noted in the section above, other organ systems may be infected and affected by food poisoning. Symptoms will depend upon what organ system is involved (for example, encephalopathy due to brain infection).

Are food poisoning and stomach flu the same thing?

Food poisoning and the stomach flu may or may not be the same thing, depending if the causative agent is transmitted by contaminated food, or if the agent is transmitted by non-food mechanisms such as body secretions. Most health-care professionals equate stomach flu to viral gastroenteritis.

Stomach flu is a non-specific term that describes an illness that usually resolves within 24 hours and is caused commonly by the adenovirus, Norwalk virus or rotavirus, (rotavirus is most commonly found in children).

If numerous cases of "stomach flu" occur in a situation where many people have been eating, it certainly may be considered food poisoning. Norwalk virus is responsible for many cases of food borne illness outbreaks on cruise ships.

How long does food poisoning last?

Most cases of food poisoning last about 1 to 2 days and symptoms resolve on their own. If symptoms persist longer than that, the affected person should contact their health-care professional.

Cyclospora infections may be difficult to detect and diarrhea may last for weeks. health-care professionals may consider this parasite as the potential cause of food poisoning in patients with prolonged symptoms.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/31/2015

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Weight Loss/Healthy Living Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Food Poisoning - Symptoms

    What were the symptoms of your food poisoning?

    Post View 71 Comments
  • Food Poisoning - Treatment

    What was your treatment, including medication, for food poisoning?

    Post View 5 Comments
  • Food Poisoning - Causes

    Do you know what caused your food poisoning?

    Post View 5 Comments
  • Food Poisoning - Experience

    Please describe your experience with food poisoning.

    Post View 55 Comments
  • Food Poisoning - Home Remedies

    Please provide home remedies you've used to treat symptoms related to food poisoning.

    Post View 7 Comments

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors