What Is Salmonella?
Salmonella is a bacterial infection that frequently causes food poisoning because it affects the digestive tract and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Salmonella infection is called salmonellosis.
What Are Symptoms of Salmonella?
Symptoms of Salmonella usually appear within six hours to six days after eating food (or touching an animal) contaminated with the bacteria and include:
- Fever that typically lasts 2 or 3 days.
- May be watery or bloody
- Usually lasts 4 to 10 days
- Abdominal pain or cramping
Salmonella infection is usually not serious, and most people recover within a week.
People at high risk of severe illness from Salmonella include:
- People with a weak immune system
- Babies under one year old
- Adults older than 50 years
See a doctor if you have:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Inability to eat or drink
- Vomit blood
- Bloody stools
- Fever higher than 100.4° F (38° C) for more than 2 or 3 days
- Diarrhea and a fever higher than 102° F
- Diarrhea for more than 3 days does not improve
- Signs of dehydration, such as:
- Any of the risk factors listed above
What Causes Salmonella?
Salmonellosis is caused by infection with Salmonella bacteria. People usually get infected after eating food (or touching an animal) contaminated with the Salmonella bacteria.
Foods that commonly have Salmonella bacteria include:
- Dairy products
- Raw and undercooked meat
- Raw fruits or vegetables
People can also get salmonellosis from touching certain animals, such as chickens, ducks, and turtles.
How Is Salmonella Diagnosed?
Salmonella infection is often diagnosed with a history of symptoms. Tests may not be needed if symptoms are not severe.
For patients at higher risk of getting severe symptoms of Salmonella infection, a doctor may order a stool test to check for Salmonella bacteria, however, results can take 2 to 3 days and a doctor may decide to start treatment before results are returned.
What Is the Treatment for Salmonella?
Salmonella infection usually goes away on its own, and treatment is often not needed.
For patients at higher risk of serious illness, antibiotics may be prescribed.
Home remedies for symptoms of Salmonella infection include:
- Drink plenty of liquids that have water, salt, and sugar, such as water mixed with juice, soda, or broth
- Eat small amounts if you can
- Avoid foods high fat, which may worsen symptoms
What Are Complications of Salmonella?
Complications of Salmonella are uncommon but may include:
- Joint pain (reactive arthritis) that can last for months to years after the infection ends
- Increased risk of developing digestive disorders, including gastroesophageal influx disease (GERD), and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Bacteremia (infection of the bloodstream)
How Do You Prevent Salmonella?
Salmonella infection can be prevented:
- Wash hands after changing diapers, using to the bathroom, blowing your nose, touching animals, or taking out the trash
- Do not eat or drink foods with raw eggs or raw (unpasteurized) milk.
- Follow food safety guidelines, such as
- Don't drink unpasteurized milk or eat foods made with it
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly
- Keep the refrigerator colder than 40°F (4.4°C) and the freezer below 0°F (-18°C)
- Cook meat and seafood until well done
- Cook eggs until the yolk is firm
- Wash hands, knives, cutting boards, countertops, and utensils after they touch raw food
- Stay home from work or school if you are sick
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