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Salmonella Infection

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What is salmonella infection?

A salmonella infection develops when salmonella bacteria reach your intestines.

How do salmonella spread?

The bacteria spread through direct contact with the bacteria. You can become infected when you eat or drink food that is contaminated. Foods become contaminated by improper handling, cooking, or storage. Salmonella infection may also spread when an infected person does not wash his hands after he has a bowel movement or changes a diaper.

What increases my risk for salmonella infection?

  • Weak immune system: Chemotherapy and other medicines, such as steroids, weaken your immune system. Your immune system may also be weak if you have sickle cell anemia, liver problems, cancer, or AIDS.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics are used to kill bacteria. Sometimes they upset the balance of good and bad bacteria in your intestine. This can increase your risk for infection.

What are the signs and symptoms of salmonella infection?

Any of the following may appear 12 to 72 hours after the germs get into your body:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weight loss or dehydration
  • Headache or fever

How is salmonella infection diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. Your blood or bowel movements may be tested for salmonella bacteria.

How is salmonella infection treated?

Salmonella infection usually lasts 4 to 7 days and gets better without treatment. Do not take medicine to stop your diarrhea. This can make your infection last longer. You may need any of the following to treat the infection or to ease your symptoms:

  • Liquids: The goal of treatment is to prevent dehydration. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. You may also need to drink an oral rehydration solution (ORS). An ORS contains a balance of water, salt, and sugar to replace body fluids.
  • Intravenous fluids: You may need intravenous (IV) fluids if you become dehydrated.
  • Antibiotics: You may be given antibiotics if your immune system is too weak to fight the infection.

What are the risks of salmonella infection?

The infection may spread to your bones, joints, or organs. You may also develop severe dehydration.

How can salmonella infection be prevented?

  • Cook food 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 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 food. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom or change a diaper. 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. Keep your refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or lower and your freezer at 0°F (-18°C).
  • Separate raw and cooked foods: Keep raw meat and its juices away from other foods to prevent the spread of bacteria. Always put cooked food on a clean platter. Never use a platter that held raw meat.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • Your diarrhea or vomiting gets worse.
  • You are dizzy or weak.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have severe abdominal pain.
  • Your abdomen is tender and hard, or feels swollen.
  • You have black or bright red bowel movements.
  • You see blood in your vomit.
  • You are urinating less or not at all.
  • Your heart is beating faster than usual.
  • You are breathing faster than usual.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

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