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Food Poisoning


Food poisoning is when you get sick after you eat food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Food poisoning most commonly happens when you eat raw or undercooked food. Meat, seafood, produce, and dairy products are common foods that can become contaminated.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • You are vomiting so often that you cannot keep any liquid down.
  • You have a fever and pale skin, and you feel irritated and tired.
  • You are very drowsy or cannot stay awake.
  • Your eyes are sunken and so dry you have no tears.
  • Your arms and legs feel colder than normal, or they look blue.
  • You urinate small amounts or not at all.
  • You feel dizzy or confused.
  • You have severe pain in your abdomen.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You are very thirsty and your mouth and tongue are dry.
  • Your diarrhea has lasted more than 3 days.
  • You have bloody diarrhea.
  • You have diarrhea and a fever higher than 101.5°F.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Medicines may be given to control diarrhea or to calm your stomach or stop your vomiting. You may also need medicine to fight a bacterial infection.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Manage your symptoms:

Do not eat if you are nauseated, but take sips of liquid as often as possible.

  • Drink liquids as directed. You may need to drink more liquids than usual to prevent dehydration. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. You may need to drink an oral rehydration solution (ORS). An ORS contains a balance of water, salt, and sugar to replace body fluids lost during vomiting and diarrhea. Ask what kind of ORS to use, how much to drink, and where to get it.
  • Eat bland foods. Good examples include broth, bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, and tea. Do not drink sugary drinks, caffeine, or alcohol because they can make your symptoms worse.

Prevent food poisoning:

  • Cook foods all the way through. Cook eggs until the yolks are firm. Use a meat thermometer to make sure meat is heated to a temperature that will kill any bacteria. Do not eat raw or undercooked poultry, seafood, or meat.
  • Clean thoroughly. Wash your hands in warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after you handle or prepare foods. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a diaper, or touch an animal. Rinse fruits and vegetables in running water. Clean cutting boards, knives, countertops, and other areas where you prepare food before and after you cook. Wash sponges and dishtowels weekly in hot water.
  • Store food properly. Refrigerate or freeze fruits and vegetables, cooked foods, and leftovers right away. Keep your refrigerator at 40°F or lower and your freezer at 0°F.
  • Separate raw and cooked foods. Keep raw meat and its juices away from other foods to prevent the spread of bacteria. Never put cooked food on a dish that held raw meat. Get a clean dish for the cooked food.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.