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Understanding New and Severe Abdominal Pain

Food poisoning is a good explanation for your symptoms.

If your symptoms began within a few hours of your suspicious meal, the food was probably contaminated with a toxin. Fortunately, food poisoning symptoms go away on their own without treatment if they are caused by a toxin. Vomiting and abdominal cramps usually last less than a full day, but diarrhea and changes in your appetite and digestion may linger for up to one week.

If your symptoms took several days to develop after your suspicious food exposure, you may have a bacterial infection in your intestine. Your doctor might request that you provide a stool sample, so you can be checked for an infection with salmonella, shigella, campylobacter, or an aggressive strain of e. coli. Infections with these bacteria types require antibiotic treatment.

If you develop diarrhea, you may become significantly dehydrated as a result of food poisoning. Treatment with intravenous (IV) fluids might be necessary. If you notice dizziness or feel that you are losing fluid faster than you can keep up with by drinking, you should contact your doctor urgently. Your doctor's care is especially important if you are elderly or have heart disease or diabetes.

Your vomiting and abdominal pain may also be caused by a viral infection (gastroenteritis). Symptoms from food poisoning or viral gastroenteritis should improve after the first day. There are also more serious possible explanations for your symptoms. A common, dangerous condition that can cause these symptoms is bowel obstruction. Bowel obstruction should be strongly considered during your doctor's evaluation if you have not had a recent bowel movement or if you have a history of abdominal or pelvic surgery. Surgery can be result in thread-like or band-like scars in the abdomen that can ensnare a loop of bowel and block the passage of bowel contents.

If your symptoms are severe or if they do not quickly improve, see your doctor for an urgent evaluation.


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