Food poisoning timeline
The food poisoning timeline can begin immediately, especially if it is a chemical contaminant. According to the Mayo Clinic, treatment of serious food poisoning may include:
- Replacement of lost fluids. Fluids and electrolytes — minerals such as sodium, potassium and calcium that maintain the balance of fluids in your body — lost to persistent diarrhea need to be replaced. Some children and adults with persistent diarrhea or vomiting may need hospitalization, where they can receive salts and fluids through a vein (intravenously), to prevent or treat dehydration.
- Antibiotics. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if you have certain kinds of bacterial food poisoning and your symptoms are severe. Food poisoning caused by listeria needs to be treated with intravenous antibiotics during hospitalization. The sooner treatment begins, the better. During pregnancy, prompt antibiotic treatment may help keep the infection from affecting the baby. Antibiotics will not help food poisoning caused by viruses. Antibiotics may actually worsen symptoms in certain kinds of viral or bacterial food poisoning. Talk to your doctor about your options.
Adults with diarrhea that isn't bloody and who have no fever may get relief from taking over the counter medications; loperamide (Imodium A-D) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol). Ask your doctor about these options.
When you should talk to your doctor?
If your food poisoning lasts more than a few days, you may want to see your doctor or visit an emergency room.
Here are some questions you can ask a doctor or another medical professional:
- What's the likely cause of the symptoms? Are there other possible causes?
- Is there a need for tests?
- What's the best treatment approach? Are there alternatives?
- Is there a need for medication? If yes, is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- How can I ease the symptoms?
Some questions the doctor may ask include:
- Has anyone in your family or otherwise close to you developed similar symptoms? If so, did you eat the same things?
- Have you traveled anywhere where the water or food might not be safe?
- Are you having bloody bowel movements?
- Do you have a fever?
- Had you taken antibiotics in the days or weeks before your symptoms started?
- When did symptoms begin?
- Have the symptoms been continuous, or do they come and go?
- What foods have you eaten in the past few days?
In the meantime, you or your loved one who is sick should drink plenty of fluids and only eat bland foods to reduce stress on your digestive system. If your child is sick, follow the same approach — offer plenty of fluids and bland food. If you're breast-feeding or using formula, continue to feed your child as usual.
Ask your child's doctor if giving your child an oral rehydration fluid (Pedialyte, Enfalyte, others) is appropriate. Older adults and people with weakened immune systems might also benefit from oral rehydration solutions. Medications that help ease diarrhea generally aren't recommended for children.
For more information about:
If you have food poisoning and want to check recently recalled foods, please visit these pages:
Current Multistate Food Poisoning Outbreaks
When two or more people get the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink, the event is called a foodborne or food poisoning outbreak. Reporting illnesses to your local health department helps them identify potential outbreaks of foodborne disease. Public health officials investigate outbreaks to control them, so more people do not get sick in the outbreak, and to learn how to prevent similar outbreaks from happening in the future.
Here is a list of current multistate foodborne illness outbreaks.