Food Poisoning: What You Should Know

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Chances are, at one point or another, you’ve experienced the discomforting symptoms of food poisoning and can attest to just how miserable it can be. If you’ve been the fortunate few that haven’t, you may not know of the symptoms and other things that could be critical to understanding it. There are a number of causes, ways to treat them, and testing that may need to be done if the illness won’t go away on its own. Here’s more on food poisoning: what you should know. 

Food Poisoning: What You Should Know 

Most of us have been taught that food poisoning typically takes at least 24 hours before the first symptoms start to show up, but that is not necessarily the case. Some cases of food poisoning can show up in as little as a few hours.  

There are over 250 different types of bacteria, parasites, and viruses in food that are known to cause food poisoning. 

Every year, nearly 48 million Americans get some type of food poisoning. That’s 1 in 6 people! Over 128,000 are hospitalized, while as many as 3,000 people die from a number of foodborne diseases. In case you missed this post: Heat Exhaustion vs. Heat Stroke: What You Need to Know

Symptoms of Food Poisoning

The main symptoms of food poisoning are vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, as well as nausea. But there may be a number of other symptoms that you might experience. Headaches, dehydration, joint and muscle aches, fatigue, blood in your stool, while in rare cases, dizziness, followed up with blurred or double vision. These symptoms can come on quite suddenly and typically go away in less than 24 hours.    

Food Poisoning Can Be More Severe for Others 

Food poisoning can be dangerous and life-threatening when it happens to certain people. This is true for women who are pregnant, adults older than 60 years of age, people with weaker immune systems, along with babies and children. If you fall into one of these categories, you’ll need to call your doctor when the symptoms present themselves.  

Main Causes of Food Poisoning 

The most common causes of food poisoning are bacteria and viruses that have been consumed while you’re eating without knowing it. This can happen for a number of reasons. 

  • Food that was not cooked properly, whether it failed to reach a certain temperature, or other foods came into contact with it as it was being cooked (cross-contamination). 
  • It can happen while it is being grown or processed. 
  • The severity of the food poisoning depends upon which bacteria or virus was present on the food that was eaten. 
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Here’s a look at a number of the most common contaminants that can cause food poisoning. 

Escherichia coli (E.coli) 

E. coli can be present when beef is contaminated with feces as it is being slaughtered and then undercooked. Unpasteurized milk, contaminated water, and apple cider can also be a cause. Symptoms lasting between 1 to 8 days are most common.


This happens when you eat raw meat, eggs, or milk products. It can spread from the food itself, or surfaces, and cooking utensils that came in contact with the contaminated food. Symptoms typically last for 1 to 3 days.


Listeria can come from lunch meats, hotdogs, raw produce, and unpasteurized milk or cheeses. Symptoms usually last between 9 hours and 2 days. 


Rotavirus usually shows up on raw produce, and can also be passed by the food handler. Symptoms last for around 1 to 3 days. 

Treating Food Poisoning

Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done relating to food poisoning. As awful as it might sound, it’s best if you allow diarrhea to run its course, instead of taking over the counter medications to stop it. The diarrhea is helping your body flush out the toxins and bacteria.   

One thing you can do is make sure that your body is getting enough electrolytes and fluids to keep up with the vomiting and diarrhea that can quickly dehydrate you. Making sure that your body is getting plenty of rest is also key. 

Lastly, and when you feel up to it, eat smaller portions of foods that are non-fatty. This includes things like crackers, toast, or rice. Caffeine, alcohol, and dairy products are a few things that you should stay away from in the meantime because they can make your symptoms worse.    

Getting Tested for Food Poisoning

If you decide to go visit your doctor, in most cases, they can determine whether you are dealing with food poisoning based on the symptoms that you describe. If however, they decide to do some testing to reach a diagnosis, these are a few of the tests that you can expect.  

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Stool Culture

If your symptoms are severe or complicated, you may need to see your doctor to have some testing done. The most common lab testing for food poisoning is a stool culture. Your doctor may order this testing if your symptoms linger, or you are experiencing severe stomach pain or a fever. 

Your stool sample will help to determine whether your illness is due to bacteria, and may even help your doctor determine which antibiotics will bring relief. The downside of stool cultures is that they sometimes take several days to come back with results. 

Blood Testing

If your doctor believes that the infection has moved into your bloodstream, he or she may order you to get blood testing done. These blood tests can alert doctors just how sick you may be, and detect specific bacterias (like listeria, L.monocytogenes, and hepatitis A virus ), in order to fight them more effectively. Both stool and blood work can also check for botulism, a toxin that can be fatal.  

Imaging Tests

On very rare occasions, your doctor might have an MRI or CT scan performed to determine whether there’s another cause that has brought about your symptoms. 

Are There any Long-term Effects?

In most cases, people dealing with mild illnesses of food poisoning can experience the symptoms go away after a few days, or even in a few hours. However, there are certain food poisoning illnesses that require hospitalization and can cause long-term effects (chronic arthritis, kidney failure, brain, and nerve damage), even to the point of death if not properly treated. If your symptoms linger for more than 24 hours, have blood in your stool, or you feel dizzy with blurred vision, make sure that you get in to see your doctor. As the saying goes, better safe than sorry.

Final Word

Food poisoning is truly a humbling ordeal that can become traumatic at times for some of us. As funny as it might sound, you just never know what end it’s about to come out of, and that’s no laughing matter. This is especially true if they both happen at the same time.

Again, if your symptoms seem to worsen or linger, don’t hesitate to get in to see your doctor to make sure that food poisoning is the only thing you are dealing with. What else would you add to this Food Poisoning: What you should know? Stay safe, stay well. May God bless this world, Linda

Copyright Images: Food Poisoning AdobeStock_163947915 by Zimmytws

4 thoughts on “Food Poisoning: What You Should Know

  • July 16, 2020 at 7:23 am

    Getting rehydration as quickly as possible is key.
    I looked like the cartoon Tasmanian devil from bugs bunny last time I’d had it lol.

    • July 16, 2020 at 9:17 am

      Hi Matt, it’s the worst! Your description gave me the giggles! You made me laugh so hard! Linda

  • July 16, 2020 at 7:33 am

    After a bout of severe dehydration a few years back, I make sure to travel with rehydration mix as well as the ingredients to make more. And this came in handy on one trip out of the country where I had food poisoning after eating at a buffet. I was able to rehydrate slowly even while the symptoms played out so I recovered fairly quickly and salvaged the trip. Thankfully it was only a mild case even though onset was only a bit more than 4 hours after dinner. No medical interventions necessary other than the rehydration solution and gentle food choices to work back up to regular meals.
    While I have always travelled with pretzels and hard candies, since that incident I’ve added a box of saltine crackers to the snack bag. Pretzels are ok, but saltines are so much easier on an upset GI system….
    Thanks for covering this important topic.

    • July 16, 2020 at 9:19 am

      Hi DMWalsh, great comment! It’s a good reminder for all of us to be prepared for whatever comes our way! My mom used to give me saltines, and 7-up. Thank goodness for saltine crackers! Linda


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