Treatment of food poisoning depends on the cause of illness, if it is known, and the severity of your symptoms. If the symptoms are mild to moderate, they can be treated at home with supportive care such as fluids and medications for vomiting.
Treatment of food poisoning may include the following.
- Replacement of lost fluids and electrolytes: Repeated diarrhoea and vomiting cause loss of fluid (dehydration) and minerals such as sodium, potassium and chlorine from the body. Dehydration can be prevented by drinking lots of fluids. You should take small, frequent sips of water or ready-mixed rehydration sachets added to drinking water. Even if you vomit, continue to take frequent sips of water or oral rehydration solution as taking small amount of fluid is better than not taking any. Sweetened beverages, fruit juice and fizzy drinks should be avoided as they can worsen diarrhoea. If you have severe dehydration, your doctor will admit you in a hospital for giving intravenous fluids. Fluids through a vein (intravenous hydration) provide the body with water and essential nutrients much more quickly than oral rehydration solutions.
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics are usually not needed in most cases of food poisoning. This is because in many cases, virus is the infecting germ and even when food poisoning is caused due to bacterial infection, most people recover without antibiotics. Antibiotics may be prescribed if the symptoms (diarrhoea, vomiting, fever) are particularly severe or specific bacterial cause is known. If you are pregnant, the doctor may prescribe prompt antibiotic treatment to help keep the infection from affecting the baby.
- Other medications: Your doctor may prescribe painkillers and fever relieving medicines and perhaps medicine to stop vomiting. These medicines do not improve diarrhoea but make you feel better. Medication for vomiting can stop it and help to retain fluids and prevent dehydration.
Most people (adults and children) with food poisoning improve with treatment at home which includes oral fluids, medicine to relieve fever and vomiting. Admission to a hospital for treatment may be needed if you have serious dehydration or some other complication caused by diarrhoea. In the hospital, you will be given fluids directly into the vein (intravenously), and other medications (such as antibiotics) if needed.
Some measures which can help to improve your symptoms and speed up your recovery time at home include:
- Eating smaller, more frequent meals (than trying to eat three large meals).
- Eating foods which are easily digestible (such as toast, bananas and rice) until your symptoms improve and you begin to feel better.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine and spicy and fatty foods (all these can make you feel worse).
- Take rest.