How long does food poisoning last?

By: Devon Andre | Colon And Digestive | Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 02:00 PM

food poisoning If you’ve ever wondered – how long does food poisoning last? – well, we are here to answer that burning question and provide you with other facts regarding food poisoning. The simple and direct answer to the question how long food poisoning lasts is between one to two days, typically. Symptoms will subside on their own – we will get into symptoms in more detail later – and you will slowly begin to feel like yourself again. Generally, if you are still experiencing food poisoning symptoms longer than two days, you should go see your doctor.

Food poisoning is a result of eating contaminated food, and almost immediately you will begin to feel its effects. Food poisoning can come on sudden, and symptoms can be quite taxing on the body. To avoid complications, rest and stay hydrated as much as possible.

How long do food poisoning symptoms last?

How long food poisoning will last and when symptoms will begin to show depends on what bacteria you ingested. If food poisoning is a result of staph bacteria, symptoms can appear within one or two hours. If your food poisoning is from campylobacter, it can take up to 10 days for symptoms to show, which also is enough time for you to forget that it could be a result of tainted food so you may believe you have the stomach flu instead.

Depending on the infection, symptoms may last for days or even months – in that case, you should see your doctor about more aggressive treatment methods.

Here is a chart created by the Mayo Clinic to help you easily see how long it takes for symptoms to emerge in food poisoning based on the bacteria that caused it.

Contaminant Onset of symptoms Foods affected and means of transmission
Campylobacter 2 to 5 days Meat and poultry. Contamination occurs during processing if animal feces contact meat surfaces. Other sources include unpasteurized milk and contaminated water.
Clostridium botulinum 12 to 72 hours Home-canned foods with low acidity, improperly canned commercial foods, smoked or salted fish, potatoes baked in aluminum foil, and other foods kept at warm temperatures for too long.
Clostridium perfringens 8 to 16 hours Meats, stews, and gravies. Commonly spread when serving dishes don’t keep food hot enough or when food is chilled too slowly.
Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7 1 to 8 days Beef contaminated with feces during slaughter. Spread mainly by undercooked ground beef. Other sources include unpasteurized milk and apple cider, alfalfa sprouts, and contaminated water.
Giardia lamblia 1 to 2 weeks Raw, ready-to-eat produce and contaminated water. Can be spread by an infected food handler.
Hepatitis A 28 days Raw, ready-to-eat produce and shellfish from contaminated water. Can be spread by an infected food handler.
Listeria 9 to 48 hours Hot dogs, luncheon meats, unpasteurized milk and cheeses, and unwashed raw produce. Can be spread through contaminated soil and water.
Noroviruses (Norwalk-like viruses) 12 to 48 hours Raw, ready-to-eat produce and shellfish from contaminated water. Can be spread by an infected food handler.
Rotavirus 1 to 3 days Raw, ready-to-eat produce. Can be spread by an infected food handler.
Salmonella 1 to 3 days Raw or contaminated meat, poultry, milk, or egg yolks. Survives inadequate cooking. Can be spread by knives, cutting surfaces, or an infected food handler.
Shigella 24 to 48 hours Seafood and raw, ready-to-eat produce. Can be spread by an infected food handler.
Staphylococcus aureus 1 to 6 hours Meats and prepared salads, cream sauces, and cream-filled pastries. Can be spread by hand contact, coughing and sneezing.
Vibrio vulnificus 1 to 7 days Raw oysters and raw or undercooked mussels, clams, and whole scallops. Can be spread through contaminated sea water.

What are the symptoms of food poisoning?

stomach crampsSymptoms of food poisoning can vary from person to person and even vary based on the cause of the food poisoning, but common symptoms of food poisoning include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, dizziness, tearing in the eyes, excessive salivation, mental confusion, and stomach pains.

More severe and rare symptoms of food poisoning include partial loss of speech, blurred vision, muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle paralysis.

When to see a doctor for food poisoning?

You should see a doctor to confirm diagnosis of food poisoning as it also appears as other conditions, so it’s safer to rule it out. You should be aware of symptoms related to dehydration and fever, as those are quite serious and require medical attention.

See your doctor immediately if you begin to notice the following:

  • Dehydration signs, such as sunken eyes, dry mouth, or decreased urination
  • Diarrhea that lasts longer than two days and is very severe
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Significant vomiting or nausea
  • Black, tarry, or bloody stools
  • A fever greater than 102 °F
  • Signs of chemical or toxin poisoning, including tearing of the eyes, salivation, confusion, stomach pain or dizziness, usually occurring within 30 minutes of a meal

Also see your doctor if you experience the more severe, rare symptoms listed above.

Food poisoning prevention and home remedies

washing handsIf you want to continue enjoying food without ending up in the hospital, follow these tips to prevent food poisoning from occurring:

  • Always wash your hands before handling food and in-between handling different food items.
  • Always wash cutting boards and surfaces that food has been placed on.
  • Use different cutting boards for different food items.
  • Separate meat from other ingredients.
  • Cook food thoroughly.
  • Keep your fridge below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cool leftovers quickly – within 90 minutes – and store it in the fridge.
  • Always follow “best before” dates, especially with dairy products.

Basic treatment of food poisoning is replenishing lost fluids and taking antibiotics. Drinking water may not be enough to fully restore the body with lost nutrients, such as potassium and sodium, so drinking an enriched sports beverage may be more helpful. Antibiotics, on the other hand, are usually prescribed when symptoms are serious and a doctor can determine the exact strain of bacteria. If symptoms of food poisoning are not severe, over-the-counter medicines to ease diarrhea and stomach cramping may be useful.

Natural remedies for food poisoning involve avoiding eating larger, heavy meals – you may want to stay clear of steak and potatoes for a while. Sticking to items like banana and toast will be easier on your stomach. Avoid smoking, alcohol, caffeine, dairy products, and heavily seasoned foods – the blander the food item, the better. Rest as much as possible. Without eating like you normally do, you’ll be weaker, so it’s best not to strain yourself even more. The color, shape and smell of your poop shout out the current status of your health, and therefore, the subject of stool certainly needs more attention. Appalling, but true!

These tips can help ensure you get the most out of your food safely. Food should provide us with nutrients and energy, not a trip to the hospital. By being aware of how we are handling and preparing our food, we can prevent food poisoning and continue to enjoy those tasty, healthy meals. And in the case you do develop food poisoning, allowing it to pass and not putting added stress on yourself will have you back on your feet in no time.

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