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Food Poisoning and Safe Food Handling (cont.)

What Increases Your Risk

People at increased risk of becoming ill with food poisoning and of having more severe symptoms include:

Things that increase your risk for getting food poisoning include:

  • Eating or drinking unpasteurized juices, raw sprouts, unpasteurized milk, and milk products made from unpasteurized milk, such as certain soft cheeses.
  • Eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and shellfish (clams, oysters, scallops, and mussels).
  • Eating or drinking food that has been contaminated through careless food processing or handling.
  • Traveling to a developing country.

When To Call a Doctor

Callor other emergency services right away if:

  • You have signs of severe dehydration. These include little or no urine; sunken eyes, no tears, and a dry mouth and tongue; fast breathing and heartbeat; feeling very dizzy or lightheaded; and not feeling or acting alert.
  • You think you may have food poisoning from a canned food and you have symptoms of botulism (blurred or double vision, trouble swallowing or breathing, and muscle weakness).

Call your doctor immediately if:

  • You have severe diarrhea (large amounts of loose stool every 1 to 2 hours) that lasts longer than 2 days if you are an adult.
  • You have vomiting that lasts longer than 1 day if you are an adult.
  • You are pregnant and believe that you have been exposed to listeriosis or toxoplasmosis. For more information on toxoplasmosis, see the topic Toxoplasmosis During Pregnancy.
  • You have sudden, severe belly pain.

Talk to your doctor if:

  • You have symptoms of mild dehydration (dry mouth, dark urine, not much urine) that get worse even with home treatment.
  • You have a fever.
  • You aren't feeling better after 1 week of home treatment.

If you think you have eaten contaminated food, your local Poison Control Center can answer questions and provide information on what to do next. Poison Control Centers are usually listed with other emergency numbers in your telephone book.

Children, pregnant women, and people with long-lasting (chronic) conditions, such as diabetes, are more likely to have severe dehydration and should be watched closely for symptoms. For more information, see the topic:

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is a period of time during which you and your doctor observe your symptoms or condition without using medical treatment.

Watchful waiting may be appropriate if you have diarrhea, stomach cramps, and other symptoms of stomach flu (gastroenteritis). Most people recover from these gastrointestinal illnesses at home in several days without medical treatment. Likewise, some cases of bacterial food poisoning are mild and pass in several days. But if diarrhea is severe or lasts longer than a week, call your doctor for advice.

Who to see

Health professionals who are able to diagnose and treat food poisoning include:

You may be referred to a gastroenterologist if your symptoms are persistent or severe.

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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