ExpertBeacon Logo

You can survive food poisoning

You can survive food poisoning

Within 48 hours of enjoying your meal, food poisoning kicks in. Your symptoms are nausea, vomiting, stomach cramping, and diarrhea. Add fever, chills, and dehydration and you have a personal crisis.  Food poisoning, while extremely unpleasant, will commonly last only 1 to 2 days.  If you're experiencing food poisoning, these do’s and don’ts will help you through this very uncomfortable experience.


Do

Do stop eating

It is highly advisable to stop eating for a few hours. Food poisoning usually triggers vomiting, which is the body’s purge mechanism to rid itself of undigested contaminated food. Eating more food while the body goes through this purge cycle will just initiate more vomiting, creating a nasty cycle. So stop the intake of food immediately with the onset of symptoms.

Do drink water to rehydrate

Vomiting and diarrhea purge your body of toxins, but also dehydrates you. So it is important to continue drinking liquids, preferably water. Drinking water will probably produce more vomiting and diarrhea for a while, but this is a good thing, since it means the body is using the liquid to continue to purge the toxins. Start by sipping water. If you're an adult and that is too much to handle, then start by sucking on ice chips as an alternative. Do not give ice chips to young children, since they could be a choking hazard.

Do get plenty of rest

Food poisoning will exhaust you both physically and mentally. The vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and other symptoms are a significant physical strain on your body. Couple this with the lack of food and little fluids and  your body becomes  weak. The best thing you can do is to rest throughout the ordeal while you give your body time to recover.

Do apply heating pad on stomach

Food poisoning is usually accompanied by severe stomach cramps. To help alleviate the pain, some find comfort in the application of a heating pad to the cramping area.

Do consider taking medication

Diarrhea is very unpleasant and when it occurs frequently over a 48-hour period, there is a temptation to take anti-diarrhea medication. This is a viable option, but should only be taken under the advice and direction of a physician.

Do call poison center

Call a poison center if you feel unsure about the appropriate treatments. In the US you can call 1-800-222-1222, which will connect you directly with the American Association of Poison Control Centers. They will provide you with treatment options for your specific food poisoning situation, and are also able to determine if your symptoms are such that you should seek additional medical help. If you're outside the US, contact the nearest medical facility.

Do ease back into eating

Once the nausea and the diarrhea has subsided completely, it should be OK to start eating again. You should ease back into eating with bland and easy to digest foods. Stop eating if the nausea returns.

Do seek medical help if needed

Go to a medical facility if symptoms do not subside within 48 hours, you experience severe food poisoning symptoms, or you become severely dehydrated.  Food poisoning usually runs its course after 2 days. If you are still vomiting, experiencing diarrhea or more severe symptoms such as a fever over 101 degrees or blood in your vomit and diarrhea, seek medical help immediately. This is even more critical when you are outside the US.


Don't

Do not eat solid foods

Through vomiting, the body is purging the bacteria and toxins from your stomach. So, don’t eat solid foods, and definitely avoid all dairy products. If you must eat something, stick to soda crackers, dry cereal, plain toast, or a little rice.

Do not drink alcoholic, caffeinated or sugary drinks

Alcohol, caffeinated and sugary drinks can make the diarrhea worse. To rehydrate, drink sips of water or drinks that contain electrolytes. Any drink that contains significant amounts of sugar should be diluted with water before drinking. Clear broths and clear sodas are also acceptable in small quantities.

Do not hesitate to go to hospital

Severe sustained bouts of diarrhea can lead to serious dehydration that cannot be overcome by the normal consumption of fluids. Diarrhea not only purges the body of the bacteria and toxins causing the food poisoning, but also minerals such as calcium, potassium, and sodium, which are essential to maintaining the balance of the fluids in your body and certain bodily functions. Certain types of diarrhea in foreign countries can be very serious, even fatal. If you are experiencing severe diarrhea, your symptoms persist or worsen while on a trip overseas, seek medical attention.

In cases of severe dehydration, a hospital will rehydrate you quickly with a combination of water and essential nutrients via an intravenous (IV) therapy.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

Food poisoning is a relatively common illness that usually passes within 24 to 48 hours. If symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps continue for more than 48 hours or get worse, then seek medical help. Through vomiting and diarrhea you become dehydrated and lose essential minerals, so to offset this you need to drink clear fluids such as water, clear broth, or diluted soda drinks and Gatorade. You can survive this personal crisis by following these do's and don'ts and getting appropriate rest and care.


More expert advice about Poisoning

Photo Credits: Day 7 by Flickr: perfecto insecto; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Scott J. Hershman, MD, CCMEPPrincipal, Allicott Consulting

Dr. Hershman is the Principal and co-founder of Allicott Consulting, LLC, a firm specializing in the collaborative educational endeavors of healthcare providers, academic medical centers, and medical education companies as it pertains to the Con...

View Full ProfileRecent Articles