Signs and Symptoms of Food Poisoning

May 7th 2016

One in six Americans develops food poisoning annually. Symptoms may vary based on the organs affected by the infection. People suffering from food poisoning should monitor these symptoms and their side effects closely to determine whether they need to seek further medical attention.


Abdominal cramps may start as soon as one hour after eating food contaminated by toxins produced by Staphylococcus bacteria. Pain could occur in the stomach or in lower gastrointestinal areas such as the intestines. Extreme abdominal pain may lead to an emergency room visit.


Watery diarrhea may occur for several days after the initial food poisoning despite subsequently eating solid foods. Constant diarrhea may cause dehydration since it drains the body of water faster than usual. The resulting discharge could also be bloody.

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting, combined with diarrhea and abdominal cramps, represent the most common symptoms of food poisoning experienced by Americans. These symptoms can become life threatening if a patient cannot keep fluids down due to excessive vomiting. Dehydration may also result.


Food poisoning victims may experience a fever, depending on the type of infection. Chills and sweats can also occur as a side effect of an immune reaction within the body.

When to See a Doctor

Patients should seek medical treatment when they experience frequent vomiting, see blood in vomit or stools, have diarrhea for more than three days, experience extreme abdominal pain, or have a fever higher than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. People should see a doctor for symptoms of dehydration such as dry mouth, excessive thirst, little or no urination and severe weakness. Neurological symptoms such as blurred vision, muscle weakness or tightness in the arms also require medical attention.


Food poisoning symptoms vary based on the source of the contamination. Signs of food poisoning may start a few hours after eating, or they could begin weeks after consuming tainted food. Sicknesses related to this type of malady generally last for hours or a few days. Usually, victims of food poisoning exhibit more than one symptom at the same time. This type of sickness is caused by food contaminated with viruses, bacteria, parasites or fungi.

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