How to treat food poisoning

Symptoms of food poisoning or bacterial gastroenteritis can appear suddenly without any prior warning. The first signs that you may have eaten something toxic include feeling nauseous or vomiting. Soon after this you might experience severe abdominal cramps followed by diarrhea. It’s not always clear whether these symptoms indicate a case of food poisoning since viral infections (viral gastroenteritis) produce similar reactions.

Food poisoning is caused by bacteria which has been allowed to develop in food recently eaten, usually within the past four hours. As such, the effects of the poisonous toxins become apparent once the food reaches the intestinal tract. Cases of food poisoning lasting up to 24 hours can usually be safely treated at home.


Step 1

Rest and hold off the food.

For the first day or two after eating the offending food you’ll feel drained and exhausted so try to rest as much as possible.Though you probably won’t be tempted, you should also try to refrain from eating anything for the first 24 hours after the symptoms begin. If you do, it’s more likely to prolong the attack, causing further diarrhea and stomach pains.

Step 2

Replace fluids.

Repeated bouts of vomiting and/or diarrhea means you’re losing a lot of fluids which must be replaced to prevent dehydration. Take small but frequent sips of water or a sports drink such as Gatorade. You could also try over-the-counter re-hydration sachets or Pedialyte Freezer Pops which come in a variety of flavors making them appealing for children. These products help replace fluids and electrolytes lost through vomiting and diarrhea. Alternatively, you can make your own solution out of 2 pints of water,1 teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Step 3

Take medication.

You could try taking an anti-diarrhea tablet or medicine such as Imodium which can slow down the symptoms of diarrhea. However, these are often only suitable for adults and shouldn’t be given to children.

Step 4

Eating again.

About 24 hours later if you are no longer feeling nauseous and are managing to keep fluids down, you can start introducing food again. It’s important to stick to food that’s not going to produce excessive acid and is gentle on your stomach. Food such as plain boiled rice, toast without butter or dry crackers are all good choices while eating bananas can help provide potassium which is lost during vomiting.

Foodborne illness information
  • Most common foodborne illnesses
  • How foodborne illnesses enter the body
  • Tips for preventing foodborne illnesses
Related How To Guides
  • How to care for a child with diarrhea
  • How to cure diarrhea naturally
  • How to prevent travelers’ diarrhea

Things Needed
• Rest
• Fluids
• Rehydration sachets (optional)
• An anti-diarrhea product (optional)
• Bland, easy to digest food

Tips & Warnings
• If you feel dizzy, have a dry mouth or are passing dark colored urine, you could be dehydrated;
• You may suffer from loose stools or mild cramps for a few days as the bacteria works its way through your digestive system;
• Avoid alcohol, caffeine and food with a high fat or sugar content until all symptoms have gone;
• If symptoms persist after 2-3 days, you should visit your doctor in case there is another underlying problem.


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