Symptoms of Food Poisoning

By  , Expert Content
Aug 27, 2012

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Symptoms of Food Poisoning

Signs and symptoms of food poisoning may develop after a few hours to many days after eating contaminated food (ranges from one hour to 70 days). Symptoms after eating contaminated food depend on several factors such as the type of contaminant and the amount eaten. The symptoms can progress rapidly, (within a few hours) or slowly, worsen over days to weeks.


[Read: How to Prevent Food Posoning]

In most cases symptoms develop after 1-3 days and the common ones are:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea.

Other symptoms which may occur in a person who has food poisoning are:

  • stomach cramps
  • abdominal pain
  • loss of appetite
  • a high temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above
  • muscle pain
  • chills.


[Read: Treatment of Food Poisoning]


Symptoms of dehydration: Repeated diarrhoea and vomiting in food poisoning can cause dehydration (loss of fluids and electrolytes). Loss of electrolytes and water from the body can affect the amount of water in the body, electrolyte balance (such as sodium and potassium), and other important functions. If dehydration is not treated appropriately and promptly, it can become a serious complication of food poisoning. Dehydration can cause serious health problems, such as organ damage, shock, or coma.  

Viruses are the most common cause of food poisoning. Severity of food poisoning because of viral contamination can vary from mild to severe illness. Noroviruses are a group of viruses which mostly cause mild illness (often termed "stomach flu") with nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, headache, and low-grade fever. In most cases the symptoms subside in 2-3 days. Rotavirus is a common cause of food poisoning in children. Severity of symptoms can vary from moderate to severe illness with vomiting followed by watery diarrhoea and fever.


[Read: When to Seek Help for Food Poisoning]


Many bacteria can also cause food poisoning. Some of the common bacteria which cause food poisoning are salmonella, shigella, E.coli, campylobacter and staphylococcus aureus. Symptoms usually develop a few hours to days after eating contaminated food or water. The symptoms can be mild to severe. Often there is fever, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Toxic agents are not a common cause of food poisoning. Some of the common toxins which cause food poisoning are mushroom toxins, eating fish that contains toxins and pesticides. Symptoms besides diarrhoea, vomiting and pain in abdomen which may occur in food poisoning because of toxins include:

  • Neurological symptoms such as difficulty in speaking, trouble in swallowing, double vision, and muscle weakness that progresses downward.
  • Excessive sweating, shaking, hallucinations and coma.
  • Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Swelling of the tongue and mouth.
  • Shaking or tremors of the arms and legs.
  • Fast heart beat.
  • Muscle pain and weakness.

Read more articles on Food Poisoning


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